Archive for the ‘Affordable Care Act’ Category

Healthcare Hotwire: Medicaid Trends

December 2nd, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

Medicaid Trends

Medicaid has moved to the forefront of the national healthcare debate even as states continue to innovate.

2017 marked the year that Medicaid moved to the forefront of the national conversation, as perception—and politics—caught up with the reality that no other social welfare program touches more Americans. While the robust debate remains unsettled, it’s clear that the future of Medicaid coverage, and resulting expenditure impacts, will remain in the spotlight for the foreseeable future, dominating the headlines and permeating the nation’s debate, according to a new report by PwC.

Despite uncertainty about potential federal Medicaid legislative changes, many states are continuing efforts to expand managed care, move ahead with payment and delivery system reforms, increase provider payment rates, and expand benefits as well as community-based long-term services and supports. Emerging trends include proposals to restrict eligibility (e.g., work requirements) and impose premiums through Section 1115 waivers, movement to include value-based purchasing requirements in MCO contracts, and efforts to combat the growing opioid epidemic, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report.

In the new edition of Healthcare Hotwire, you’ll learn more about Medicaid collaborations, the role of community partners in serving Medicaid beneficiaries and the potential impact of Medicaid cuts.

HIN’s Healthcare Hotwire tracks trending topics in the industry for strategic planning. Subscribe today.

Infographic: Healthcare Premium Implications Under New Senate Tax Bill

November 29th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

The U.S. Senate tax bill’s repeal of the individual health insurance mandate could lead to additional amounts in annual premium payments for 60-year-olds who buy their own coverage in 2019, according to a new analysis from The Commonwealth Fund.

A new infographic by The Commonwealth Fund provides a list of the 10 States where older adults would face the biggest dollar premium increase as a result of the Senate tax bill.

Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2018: A Strategic Planning SessionUncertainty regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), combined with industry market forces, including consolidations and strategic partnerships, positioning for value-based healthcare, cost containment efforts, an emphasis on technology and efforts to understand and address the whole patient as part of population health management have been the key drivers in the healthcare industry this year.

With the efforts to repeal and replace the ACA now focused on the elimination of the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers and changes to regulations governing association health plans, short-term, limited-duration insurance and health reimbursement arrangements, the healthcare industry can put aside the uncertainty of this year and move forward with the market forces in play.

During Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2018: A Strategic Planning Session, a 60-minute webinar on December 7th, two industry thought leaders Cynthia Kilroy, principal at Cynthia Kilroy Consulting and Brian Sanderson, managing principal, healthcare services, Crowe Horwath, will provide a roadmap to the key issues, challenges and opportunities for healthcare organizations in 2018.

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Guest Post: Value-Based Care is Dying—But Longitudinal Patient Data Can Revive It

November 16th, 2017 by William D. Kirsh, DO, MPH, CMO at Sentry Data Systems

In 2013, Harvard Business Review (HBR) called value-based care “the strategy that will fix healthcare.” And the concept goes back even further than that—Michael Porter and Elizabeth Teisberg introduced the value agenda in their book, Redefining Health Care, in 2006, accord to HBR. Yet years later, value-based care is still struggling to survive, still in limbo, not quite breathing on its own. At this point, you might say it’s in critical condition.

More than a decade after Porter and Teisberg’s book, the industry is still talking about the “transition” to value-based care. In January of this year, CMS and HHS’ Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) issued a vision for the continued shift to value-based care. In April, CEOs from Kaiser Permanente, Medtronic, Novartis and others, along with the Netherlands’ health minister, the head of England’s National Health Service, and Harvard economics professor Michael Porter (author of the 2006 book mentioned above) called for a new approach that would embrace patient-centered care and focus on outcomes.

Also in April, the World Economic Forum, in collaboration with The Boston Consulting Group, released a report, Value in Healthcare: Laying the Foundation for Health-System Transformation. Why are we still seeing words like “a new approach” and “laying the foundation” after all the time we’ve had, as an industry, to embrace value-based care?

After much wandering, it’s apparently a destination we still haven’t found on the map.

Resisting Change

According to a report from professional services organization EY (Ernst & Young) in July, about a fourth of 700 respondents (chief medical officers, clinical quality executives and chief financial officers at U.S.-based healthcare providers with annual revenue of $100 million and higher) polled said they had no value-based reimbursement initiatives planned for 2017. And that’s despite figures stating that healthcare spending in the United States “has now risen to 17.8 percent of GDP,” as the EY report says. So, what’s stopping physicians and hospitals from acting on value-based care?

As Modern Healthcare notes, the EY report points to “the escalating cost of care, a lack of standardization in how quality is defined, a disengaged workforce that leads to more medical errors, and a lack of trust and transparency between providers, payers and regulators,“ as some of the barriers. A 2016 article from Deloitte Insights adds that physician compensation may be part of the problem, stating, “Currently, there is little focus on value in physician compensation, and physicians are generally reluctant to bear financial risk for care delivery…86 percent of physicians reported being compensated under fee-for-service (FFS) or salary arrangements.” Deloitte recommends, “At least 20 percent of a physician’s compensation should be tied to performance goals. Current financial incentive levels for physicians are not adequate.”

But financial incentives alone are not enough. “Regardless of financial incentives to reduce costs and improve care quality, physicians would have a difficult time meeting these goals if they lack data-driven tools,” Deloitte says. “These tools can give them insight on cost and quality metrics, and can help them make care decisions that are consistent with effective clinical practice.”

Achieving Quality Outcomes

The EY report seems to come to the same conclusion as Deloitte about the lack of metrics and data. “Clinical outcomes and healthcare quality are often measured inconsistently by healthcare providers — if they are measured at all,” EY says. One way for hospitals to change that—a vital step in the value-based payment model—is through access to and analysis of longitudinal patient data, which is data that tracks the same patients over multiple episodes of care over the course of many years.

The problem is that hospitals and physicians often do not see the outcomes of particular treatment protocols (prescriptions, diagnostic tests, surgeries, etc.) for a long time, and capturing clinical data with this level of accuracy has historically been the industry’s blind spot. Without having a comparison population, each institution can only compare its data to real-world experience within their own data depository. A critical need is to use a de-identified real-world census population to compare protocols, best practices or specific utilization by National Drug Codes to help identify patterns of interventions that create value consistently across multiple systems, physicians, and patients. To truly answer these challenging questions about value in a meaningful way, hospitals need a comparison longitudinal patient data set.

There are countless questions about patient cohorts that physicians might want answered as they seek to make the best treatment decisions: What treatment protocol will result in the highest quality outcomes for a 50-year-old female diabetic patient with kidney failure? Which medications most effectively keep children with asthma from repeat visits to the ER? What comorbidities and symptoms are seen among patients with acute myelocytic leukemia (AML) in their earliest visits to the ER, and how can that information result in earlier diagnosis or different treatment options down the line? Quality historical longitudinal patient data may answer all these questions.

“Market forces are moving the industry toward a new paradigm; one in which delivering the highest value is an organization’s defining goal,” notes the EY report. “Optimizing patient experiences across the continuum of care while industrializing quality requires more than episodic effort.” This is the crux of value-based care. The only way to bring all stakeholders together and keep value-based care alive is by leveraging real-world, longitudinal patient data and using that information to make actionable treatment and prescribing decisions that lead to overall wellness and financial value, instead of focusing on just acute-care treatment.

William D. Kirsh, DO, MPH, CMO at Sentry Data Systems

About the Author: William D. Kirsh, DO, MPH, is chief medical officer at Sentry Data Systems and a practicing physician, clinically certified in family practice, geriatrics, hospice and palliative medicine. Sentry Data Systems, a pioneer in automated pharmacy procurement, utilization management and 340B compliance, is leading the healthcare industry in turning real-time data into real-world evidence through Comparative Rapid Cycle Analytics™ to reduce total cost of care, improve quality, and provide better results for all.

HIN Disclaimer: The opinions, representations and statements made within this guest article are those of the author and not of the Healthcare Intelligence Network as a whole. Any copyright remains with the author and any liability with regard to infringement of intellectual property rights remain with them. The company accepts no liability for any errors, omissions or representations.

Infographic: The ACA’s Innovation Waiver Program

November 10th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

Under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states can pursue “innovation waivers,” sometimes known as 1332 waivers, as of 2017. These waivers allow states to modify key parts of the law, so long as they stay true to its goals and consumer protections, according to a new infographic by the Commonwealth Fund.

The infographic provides a state-by-state look at innovation wavers.

Care Coordination of Highest-Risk Patients: Business Case for Managing Complex Populations Asked by its C-suite to quantify contributions of its multidisciplinary care team for its highest-risk patients, AltaMed Health Services Corporation readily identified seven key performance metrics associated with the team. Having demonstrated the team’s bottom line impact on specialty costs, emergency room visits, and HEDIS® measures, among other areas, the largest independent federally qualified community health center (FQHC) was granted additional staff to expand care management for its safety net population.

The Care Coordination of Highest-Risk Patients: Business Case for Managing Complex Populations chronicles AltaMed’s four-phase rollout of care coordination for dual eligibles—a population with higher hospitalization and utilization and care costs twice those of any other population served by AltaMed.

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Infographic: The Impact of Cost-Sharing Reduction Payments on Insurance Markets

November 6th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

The loss of cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments in the health insurance marketplaces would destabilize insurance markets and add to the federal deficit, according to a new infographic by NEJM Catalyst.

The infographic examines the impact of ending the CSR payments on premiums of silver plans on the exchange as well as for Medicaid expansion and non-expansion states and the impact on the federal deficit through 2026.

Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2018: A Strategic Planning SessionUncertainty regarding the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), combined with industry market forces, including consolidations and strategic partnerships, positioning for value-based healthcare, cost containment efforts, an emphasis on technology and efforts to understand and address the whole patient as part of population health management have been the key drivers in the healthcare industry this year.

With the efforts to repeal and replace the ACA now focused on the elimination of the cost-sharing reduction (CSR) payments to insurers and changes to regulations governing association health plans, short-term, limited-duration insurance and health reimbursement arrangements, the healthcare industry can put aside the uncertainty of this year and move forward with the market forces in play.

During Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2018: A Strategic Planning Session, a 60-minute webinar on December 7th, two industry thought leaders Cynthia Kilroy, principal at Cynthia Kilroy Consulting and Brian Sanderson, managing principal, healthcare services, Crowe Horwath, will provide a roadmap to the key issues, challenges and opportunities for healthcare organizations in 2018.

Get the latest healthcare infographics delivered to your e-inbox with Eye on Infographics, a bi-weekly, e-newsletter digest of visual healthcare data. Click here to sign up today.

Have an infographic you’d like featured on our site? Click here for submission guidelines.

4 Ways CMS 2018 Quality Payment Program Supports ‘Patients Over Paperwork’ Pledge

November 6th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

“Patients Over Paperwork” is committed to removing regulatory obstacles that get in the way of providers spending time with patients.

Year 2 of the CMS Quality Payment Program promises continued flexibility and reduced provider burden, according to the program’s final rule with comment issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) last week.

The Quality Payment Program (QPP), established by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), is a quality payment incentive program for physicians and other eligible clinicians that rewards value and outcomes in one of two ways: through the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

A QPP Year 2 fact sheet issued by CMS highlights 2018 changes for providers under the QPP’s MIPS and APM tracks. The Year 2 fact sheet noted that stakeholder feedback helped to shape policies for QPP Year 2, and that  “CMS is continuing many of its transition year policies while introducing modest changes.”

In keeping with the federal payor’s recently launched “Patients Over Paperwork” initiative, QPP Year 2 reflects the following changes:

    • More options for small practices (groups of 15 or fewer clinicians). Options include exclusions for individual MIPS-eligible clinicians or groups with less than or equal to $90,000 in Part B allowed charges or less than or equal to 200 Part B beneficiaries, opportunities to earn additional points, and the choice to form or join a virtual group.
    • Addresses extreme and uncontrollable circumstances, such as hurricanes and other natural disasters, for both the 2017 transition year and the 2018 MIPS performance period, by offering hardship exception applications and limited exemptions.
    • Includes virtual groups as another participation option for Year 2. A virtual group is a combination of two more taxpayer identification numbers (TINs) made up of solo practitioners and groups of 10 or fewer eligible clinicians who come together ‘virtually’ (no matter specialty or location) to participate in MIPS for a performance period of a year. A CMS Virtual Groups Toolkit provides more information, including the election process to become a virtual group.
    • Makes it easier for clinicians to qualify for incentive payments by participating in Advanced APMs that begin or end in the middle of a year. Updated QPP policies for 2018 further encourage and reward participation in APMs in Medicare.
  • CMS describes its Patients Over Paperwork effort as “a cross-cutting, collaborative process that evaluates and streamlines regulations with a goal to reduce unnecessary burden, increase efficiencies and improve the beneficiary experience. This effort emphasizes a commitment to removing regulatory obstacles that get in the way of providers spending time with patients.”

    President Trump Halts CSR Payments, Signs Executive Order on ACA Components

    October 12th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

    The Trump Administration has called for the discontinuation of cost-sharing reductions (CSR) payments to health insurance companies based on a legal opinion from the Attorney General. President Trump also signed three executive orders directing the appropriate federal agencies to examine three Affordable Care Act (ACA) components: association health plans (AHPs), short-term, limited-duration insurance (STLDI), and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs).

    “CSR payments are prohibited unless and until a valid appropriation exists,” said HHS Acting Secretary Eric Hargan, referring to the legal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office regarding CSR payments.

    According to August 2017 estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation on the impact of ending CSR payments, the number of people uninsured will be approximately 1 million higher than under the baseline in 2018 but about 1 million lower in each year starting in 2020. In 2018, under the policy, the largest effect on coverage would derive from the drop in the number of insurers participating in the non-group market.

    The CBO and JCT also estimated that by 2020, the effect on coverage would stem primarily from the increases in premium tax credits, which would make purchasing non-group insurance more attractive for some people. As a result, a larger number of people would purchase insurance through the marketplaces, and a smaller number of people would purchase employment-based health insurance.

    President Trump also signed Executive Orders that direct the:

    • Secretary of Labor to consider expanding access to AHPs;

    • Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider expanding coverage through low cost STLDI; and

    • Departments of the Treasury, Labor, and Health and Human Services to consider changes to HRAs.

    Each of these components will be subject to the federal government’s rulemaking process and will not have an impact on this year’s open enrollment period under ACA.

    Industry reaction was mixed to the Executive Orders:

    • “Health plans remain committed to certain principles. We believe that all Americans should have access to affordable coverage and care, including those with pre-existing conditions. We believe that reforms must stabilize the individual market for lower costs, higher consumer satisfaction, and better health outcomes for everyone. And we believe that we cannot jeopardize the stability of other markets that provide coverage for hundreds of millions of Americans. We will follow these principles – competition, choice, patient protections and market stability – as we evaluate the potential impact of this executive order and the rules that will follow. We look forward to engaging in the rulemaking process to help lower premiums and improve access for all Americans,” said Kristine Grow, Senior Vice President, Communications, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP).

    • The American Hospital Association (AHA) said while the “Executive Order will allow health insurance plans that cover fewer benefits and offer fewer consumer protections. No one can predict future health care needs with complete certainty and such plans could put patients at risk when care is needed most.”

      In addition, said the AHA, these provisions could destabilize the individual and small group markets, leaving millions of Americans who need comprehensive coverage to manage chronic and other pre-existing conditions, as well as protection against unforeseen illness and injury, without affordable options. And, regarding consolidation, respected economic studies demonstrate that the hospital field’s trajectory has resulted in both cost savings and quality improvements. The AHA is encouraging the Administration to achieve the goal of ensuring that individuals and small businesses have affordable, comprehensive healthcare coverage options without sacrificing critical consumer protections by stabilizing the individual and small group markets.

    Infographic: Large Healthcare Gains for Women Under ACA

    October 9th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

    The number of working-age U.S. women without health insurance has been cut nearly in half since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was enacted, according to a new infographic by the Commonwealth Fund.

    The infographic also examines other ACA impacts on healthcare for women.

    Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2017: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry Not in recent history has the outcome of a U.S. presidential election portended so much for the healthcare industry. Will the Trump administration repeal or replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA)? What will be the fate of MACRA? Will Medicare and Medicaid survive?

    These and other uncertainties compound an already daunting landscape that is steering healthcare organizations toward value-based care and alternative payment models and challenging them to up their quality game.

    Healthcare Trends & Forecasts in 2017: Performance Expectations for the Healthcare Industry, HIN’s 13th annual business forecast, is designed to support healthcare C-suite planning during this historic transition as leaders prepare for both a new year and new presidential leadership.

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    Chronic Care Plus for the Chronically Homeless: ‘Recuperative Care on Steroids’

    September 28th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

    Chronic Care Plus is designed for ‘Joe,’ a prototypical vulnerable client and frequent hospital user who for some reason has not connected to either his community or healthcare system.

    Illumination Foundation’s joint venture pilot, which began as an ER diversion project, now offers community-based stabilization following a hospital stay for medically vulnerable chronically homeless patients. Here, Illumination Foundation CEO Paul Leon describes the origins of Chronic Care Plus (CCP), which has been associated with a $7 million annual medical cost avoidance at all hospitals visited by the 38 CCP clients.

    Back in 2008 when we first started, we began to realize that housing was healthcare. With many of the patients we were seeing, although we experienced great success, we ended up discharging them many times back into a shelter or into an assisted living or sober living situation. And although these options were better than being in the hospital or being discharged to the street, we knew we could improve on this.

    So, in 2013, we implemented the Chronic Care Plus (CCP) program. Basically, CCP was recuperative care on steroids. It was recuperative care with more tightly wrapped social services and a longer length of stay. At that time, we began a pilot program in conjunction with UniHealth and St. Joseph’s Hospital in which we took the 28 most frequent users and kept them in housing for two years. We also brought these individuals through recuperative care, and wrapped them tightly with social services.

    These efforts would eventually lead us to create our ‘Street2Home’ program, which we’re working on now. It implements more bridge housing and permanent supportive housing that is supplied not only by us but by collaboratives in the community. We are able to link to these collaboratives to take our individual, our ‘Joe,’ from a street to eventual permanent housing.

    Source: Homelessness and Healthcare: Creating a Safety Net for Super Utilizers with Medical Bridge Housing

    home visits

    Homelessness and Healthcare: Creating a Safety Net for Super Utilizers with Medical Bridge Housing spotlights a California partnership that provides medical ‘bridge’ housing to homeless patients following hospitalization. This recuperative care initiative reduced avoidable hospital readmissions and ER visits and significantly lowered costs for the collaborating organizations.

    2017 ACO Snapshot: As Adoption Swells, Social Determinants of Health High on Accountable Care Agenda

    June 29th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

    Nearly two-thirds of 2017 ACO Survey respondents attribute a reduction in hospital readmissions to accountable care activity.

    Healthcare organizations may have been wary back in 2011, when the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) first introduced the accountable care organization (ACO) model. The HHS viewed the ACO framework as a tool to contain skyrocketing healthcare costs.

    Fast-forward six years, and most resistance to ACOs appears to have dissipated. According to 2017 ACO metrics from the Healthcare Intelligence Network (HIN), ACO adoption more than doubled from 2013 to 2017, with the number of healthcare organizations participating in ACOs rising from 34 to 71 percent.

    During that same period, the percentage of ACOs using shared savings models to reimburse its providers increased from 22 to 33 percent, HIN’s fourth comprehensive ACO snapshot found.

    And in the spirit of delivering patient-centered, value-based care, ACOs have embraced a whole-person approach. In new ACO benchmarks identified this year, 37 percent of ACOs assess members for social determinants of health (SDOH). In support of that trend, the 2017 survey also found that one-third of responding ACOs include behavioral health providers.

    Since that first accountable care foray by HHS, the number of ACO models has proliferated. The May 2017 HIN survey found that, of current ACO initiatives, the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) remains the front runner, with MSSP participation hovering near the same 66 percent level attained in HIN’s 2013 ACO snapshot.

    Looking ahead to ACO models launching in 2018, 24 percent of respondents will embrace the Medicare ACO Track 1+ Model, a payment design that incorporates more limited downside risk.

    This 2017 accountable care snapshot, which reflects feedback from 104 hospitals, health systems, payors, physician practices and others, also captured the following trends:

    • More than half—57 percent—participate in the Medicare Chronic Care Management program;
    • Cost and provider reimbursement are the top ACO challenges for 18 percent of 2017 respondents;
    • Clinical outcomes are the most telling measure of ACO success, say 83 percent of responding ACOs;
    • Twenty-nine percent of respondents not currently administering an ACO expect to launch an accountable care organization in the coming year;
    • 75 percent expect CMS to try and proactively assign Medicare beneficiaries to physician ACO panels to boost patient and provider participation.

    Download HIN’s latest white paper, “Accountable Care Organizations in 2017: ACO Adoption Doubles in 4 Years As Shared Savings Gain Favor,” for a summary of May 2017 feedback from 104 hospitals and health systems, multi-specialty physician practices, health plans, and others on ACO activity.