RADAR on Medicare Advantage

  • IEHP, Mom’s Meals Hope to Replicate Successful CHF Pilot With Other Populations

    Using a “tapered” meal delivery approach supported by plan-appointed navigators, Mom’s Meals and Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP) last year cut both emergency room visits and hospitalizations in half for patients with congestive heart failure who participated in a six-month pilot. The program resulted in a significant medical cost savings and positive outcomes for patients, boding well for future applications in the IEHP population and in California’s recently launched CalAIM Community Supports program.

    Patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) tend to have significantly high rates of recurring emergency department visits and hospitalizations, and upon discharge, many lack social supports to pursue the dietary and lifestyle changes that are needed to improve chronic care, according to Mom’s Meals, which provides fully prepared, refrigerated meals across the U.S. and serves the Medicaid, Medicare and individual markets. Since one of the key components of heart failure treatment is reducing sodium in the diet, Mom’s Meals provided lower-sodium (i.e., 600 mg less of sodium) fully prepared meals to members throughout the six-month pilot.

  • News Briefs: CMS’s Enhanced MTM Model Still Isn’t Showing Savings to the Medicare Parts A and B Programs

    After four years, the Enhanced Medication Therapy Management (MTM) Model still has not generated any net savings to the Medicare program. Through the five-year model that started in January 2017, model participants tested a variety of interventions to improve Part D beneficiaries’ medication use. Despite efforts by some sponsors to alter their interventions, there continued to be no statistically significant impacts on Medicare Parts A and B expenditures for the overall enrollee population in model-participating plans, observed the Fourth Evaluation Report released by the CMS Innovation Center last month. Findings from subgroup analyses suggested that enrollees eligible for the low-income subsidy and enrollees with medically complex profiles did not benefit more from the model compared to the overall enrollee population, while the program saw decreases in inpatient expenditures and admissions related to the Ambulatory Care Sensitive Conditions for both the medically complex subgroup and the all-enrollee cohort, according to the report prepared by Acumen.
  • Medicare Advantage Organizations Chase ‘Signature Trend’ of Offering Extra Benefits for 2023

    Judicious enhancements to supplemental benefits was the common theme as Medicare Advantage organizations prepared their bids for 2023, according to actuaries who recently helped sponsors submit bids that were due on June 6. The benefit changes come as plans considered potential bonus payment losses in 2024 and other possible drivers of increased costs next year.

    “The signature trend of this year was carrying forward a lot of the innovative benefits that we’ve seen take hold over the past few years,” remarks Tim Murray, principal with Wakely, an HMA company. These include “wallet” benefits such as over-the-counter card allowances and flexible “choose your own adventure” benefits often involving healthy food and/or groceries, he observes.

  • MedPAC Mulls Method of Reducing High-Cost Outlier Impact on Risk Scores

    After its last two reports suggested comprehensive reforms to Medicare Advantage plan reimbursement, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) in its June report to Congress shifted its MA focus to one area in particular: the potential for high-cost patient outlier data to skew the calculation of risk scores that determine MA plans’ risk-adjusted pay.

    Although the Hierarchical Condition Category (HCC) risk adjustment model is intended to produce scores that reflect the relative health status of a plan’s enrollees, fee-for-service (FFS) Medicare spending data that is used to calculate risk scores can include a small group of outliers whose annual costs are much higher than the average costs of patients with a given condition, explained MedPAC Executive Director Jim Mathews during a June 15 web briefing with members of the press.

  • Trustees Report Underscores Need for Wholesale Medicare Reform

    While the headline takeaway from the latest Medicare Trustees report was that the Hospital Insurance (HI) trust fund will be exhausted two years later than previously projected, industry experts suggest that the report should light a fire under Congress to take swift legislative action to sustain Medicare financing. During a recent webinar hosted by the Bipartisan Policy Center, a panel of seasoned policy experts agreed that the report underscored the need for comprehensive structural reform to the Medicare program, including potential changes to the way Medicare Advantage plans are paid.

    Published on June 2, the Medicare Board of Trustees’ annual report provides previous and projected costs for the Medicare program’s two separate trust funds: the Hospital Insurance trust fund (HI), which helps pay for inpatient hospital and other services covered by Medicare Part A; and the Supplemental Medicare Insurance trust fund (SMI), which helps pay for physician, outpatient hospital, home health and other services covered by Parts B and D.

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