Archive for the ‘Medicare’ Category

Healthcare Reacts to AHCA: Providers ‘Cannot Support Legislation As Drafted’

March 13th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

American Health Care ActLast week's unveiling of G.O.P. legislation designed to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA) triggered a flurry of concerns and criticisms from healthcare industry sectors.

The proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) would eliminate Obamacare's individual mandate and put in place refundable tax credits for individuals to purchase health insurance. It also proposes restructuring Medicaid and defunding Planned Parenthood. However, the bill seeks to maintain protections for individuals with pre-existing conditions and to permit children to remain on their parents' insurance plans until they reach the age of 26.

As of last Friday, the proposed American Health Care Act (AHCA) had cleared two committees in the U.S. House of Representatives; a final House vote on the bill is expected the week of March 20.

In a letter to leaders of the House committees that will mark up the AHCA, the American Medical Association (AMA) rejected the ACA replacement bill. In the letter, AMA CEO and Executive Vice President James L. Madara, MD, stated that his organization "cannot support the AHCA as drafted because of the expected decline in health
insurance coverage and the potential harm it would cause to vulnerable patient populations."

In particular, the AMA, the nation's largest physicians' group representing more than 220,000 doctors, residents, and medical students, objected to the bill's proposed restructuring of Medicaid, claiming it "would limit states’ ability to respond to changes in service demands and threaten coverage for people with low incomes."

The AMA's position was also outlined in a statement issued by Andrew W. Gurman, MD, AMA president.

Meanwhile, the American Hospital Association (AHA), which counts 5,000 hospitals among its members, also opposed the AHCA. In a news release, Rick Pollack, AHA president and CEO, stated that the AHA "cannot support The American Health Care Act in its current form." The AHA stated that it would be difficult to evaluate the bill without coverage estimates by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO).

Echoing AMA apprehension over proposed Medicaid restructuring, Pollack stated that the AHA feared the bill "will have the effect of making significant reductions in a program that provides services to our most vulnerable populations, and already pays providers significantly less than the cost of providing care."

Although Pollack lauded recent Congessional efforts to address behavioral health issues, including the growing opioid abuse epidemic, he stressed that "significant progress in these areas is directly related to whether individuals have coverage. And, we have already seen clear evidence of how expanded coverage is helping to address these high-priority needs."

Also seeking adequate Medicaid funding in the AHCA was America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), a national association whose 1,300 members provide coverage for healthcare and related services to more than 200 million Americans.

In a letter to two key House committees, AHIP President and CEO Marilyn Tavenner stated that "Medicaid health plans are at the forefront of providing coverage for and access to behavioral health services and treatment for opioid use disorders, and insufficient funding could jeopardize the progress being made on these important public health fronts."

However, AHIP commended the proposed legislation for its "number of positive steps to help stabilize the market and create a bridge to a reformed market during the 2018 and 2019 transition period" and "pledged to work collaboratively to shape the final legislation."

"AHIP members are committed to reducing cost growth by using value-based care arrangements and other innovative programs to address chronic illnesses and better manage the care of the highest-need patients," Tavenner concluded.

In a statement on Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price, MD, committing his agency to using its regulatory authority to create greater flexibility in the Medicaid program for states, including "a review of existing waiver procedures to provide states the impetus and freedom to innovate and test new ideas to improve access to care and health outcomes."

Infographic: Navigating the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System

February 17th, 2017 by Melanie Matthews

The goal of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services' new quality program, the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), is to streamline quality reporting to CMS and improve care, according to a new infographic by athenaInsight, Inc.

The infographic examines how MIPS will impact an average clinician this year…and in 2019 when the 2017 reporting will impact a clinician's reimbursement rates.

Infographic: EHR + CRM = Superior Patient Engagement

Under CMS's "Pick Your Pace" choices for Year 1 Quality Payment Program participation, physician practices may opt for the minimum activity necessary to avoid a payment penalty in 2019: simply submitting some data in 2017.

However, instead of delaying MACRA participation to the later part of this year, physicians should prepare and better position themselves today for MIPS success by analyzing their existing CMS data on their practices' performance and laying a path toward performance improvement.

Physician MACRA-Readiness: Mining QRUR and Other CMS Data to Maximize MIPS Performance describes the wealth of data analytics available from the CMS Enterprise Portal--Quality Resource Use Reports (QRURs) and other reports providing a window into practice performance under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). MIPS is one of two MACRA reimbursement paths and the one where most physician practices are expected to align.

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Providers, Patients Outline Healthcare Priorities to New HHS Secretary

February 16th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan

As HHS secretary Tom Price begins his tenure, the ACA and physician reimbursement are on constituents' minds.

As HHS secretary Tom Price begins his tenure, the ACA and physician reimbursement are on constituents' minds.

As Rep. Tom Price settles into his new role as secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), organizations representing physician practices, nurses, patient groups and actuaries are making their healthcare priorities known to the newly confirmed administrator.

Concerns range from the future of the Affordable Care Act, which President Trump pledged to repeal in a January 2017 executive order, to specifics of new physician reimbursement programs resulting from MACRA (Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015).

In a news release from the American Association of Nurse Practitioners, America's leading nursing organizations called on the Trump administration and Congress to prioritize patient health and the patient-provider relationship in any health reform proposals. Representing over 3.5 million nurses, the organizations affirmed their shared commitment to advancing patient-centered healthcare and healthcare policies that reflect five key areas ranging from ensuring patients access to healthcare with affordable coverage options regardless of preexisting conditions to creating greater efficiency in the Medicare system.

On the patient side, I Am Essential, a coalition of more than 200 patient groups, asked Price to preserve key ObamaCare protections, including one that guarantees coverage for those with pre-existing conditions.

In its letter, the coalition said certain ObamaCare provisions have provided improved access to care to millions living with chronic and serious health conditions.

"While it is not a perfect law," the letter stated, "The ACA has provided health coverage and improved access to care for tens of millions of Americans living with chronic and serious health conditions, many of whom were previously uninsured or underinsured. If they lose access and coverage for even one day, their health and well-being can be immediately jeopardized."

The letter concluded with the following statement: "As you make any changes, we urge you not to go back on the promise of affordable and quality care and treatment for everyone, especially those living with chronic and serious health conditions."

Meanwhile, a letter from the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA), which represents more than 18,000 U.S. healthcare organizations in which 385,000 physicians practice, asked the new administrator to "significantly reduce the regulatory burden on physician practices and improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare delivery in this country."

Focused on the federal payor's new Quality Payment Program resulting from MACRA, the MGMA requested the following from Price, who worked in private practice as an orthopedic surgeon for nearly twenty years prior to launching his political career:

  • A reduction in the cost and reporting burden of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS);
  • A careful review of the eligible Advanced Alternate Payment Program (APM) risk standard and contend there is significant inherent risk in moving from fee-for-service to risk-bearing arrangements, including substantial investment and operational costs, as well as misaligned financial incentives between the payment systems; and
  • Legislative relief from the Federal Physician Self-Referral Law, which MGMA referred to as "a regulatory monster of mind-numbing complexity."

MGMA represents physician groups of all sizes, types, structures and specialties, and has members in every major healthcare system in the nation.

And finally, the American Academy of Actuaries released three new issue briefs examining a number of key public policy considerations policymakers should weigh when evaluating specific proposals for reforming or replacing the Affordable Care Act.

The three papers, which address high-risk pools, selling health insurance across state lines, and association health plans, are available on the academy's site.

"Differences in a reform's structure can have wide implications for stakeholders and for how it interacts with other reforms that have been or may be adopted," said Academy Senior Health Fellow Cori Uccello. "For example, high-risk pools can be structured in different ways, with different implications for access to coverage, premiums, and government spending. Further, how regulatory authority is defined for both cross-state insurance sales and association health plans affects whether insurers would compete on a level playing field."

AMITA Health Places Patient at Center of Care Management Redesign

February 2nd, 2017 by Patricia Donovan
AMITA Health care management redesign

AMITA Health's care management redesign began in one patient unit on one floor.

In rolling out a new connected care management strategy across its nine-hospital system, AMITA Health aimed to keep its target patient population at the heart of the initiative—unit by unit, floor by floor. Here, Susan Wickey, vice president, quality and care management at AMITA Health, shares one of the guiding principles of the Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organization (MSSP ACO).

The key component for us in our redesign was making sure that the patient was at the center of everything we did. With that in mind, we developed structured processes and programs that would span the care continuum while retaining the patient at the center. We wanted to establish relationship-based care with the patient and the primary care physician. We wanted to be able to use available data to help drive our decisions. We wanted to ensure that our patients had regular access to care, and that we leveraged what we currently had in place.

Our congestive heart failure clinic was key in this process. Navigating through the care continuum is not an easy process for many of our patients. We wanted to make sure we could help them through that, and construct some processes for them to be able to navigate. We wanted to make sure we were continuing to build the health literacy of our patients and our families. We wanted to establish interventions for the most vulnerable population of patients. We wanted to make sure we had a dedicated, multidisciplinary team to help us. We had psychiatrists, dieticians, pharmacists, primary care physicians and physician champions along the way to help us.

We began implementation very slowly, starting with a specific cohort of patients on one specific unit. This cohort was small; the number of people touching the cohort at the time was small. As we went along, we were able to define problem areas where we needed to intervene, quickly readjust and then go down the right path.

Slowly, over a period of time, we were able to add additional floors in our acute care hospitals, which then meant adding additional staff. Those additional staff then became the super users who helped us roll out the program on the next floor.

Source: Centralized Care Management to Reduce Readmissions and Avoidable ED Visits in High-Risk Populations

Centralized Care Management to Reduce Readmissions and Avoidable ED Visits in High-Risk Populations

Centralized Care Management to Reduce Readmissions and Avoidable ED Visits in High-Risk Populations describes how the nine-hospital system inventoried, reexamined and revamped its care management resources, ultimately implementing a centralized care management model.

Social Determinants of Health: Does Technology Connect or Isolate?

January 12th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan
social isolation

Only half of Americans with two or more chronic conditions actually go online.

Social determinants are areas of health that involve an individual’s social and environmental condition as well as experiences that directly impact health and health status. Here, Dr. Randall Williams, chief executive officer, Pharos Innovations, examines why, contrary to popular thought, technology advances may actually increase the gap between social connectedness and social isolation for certain populations.

In the age of the Internet, technology itself may become a barrier to being connected with others through social interactions. The Pew Research Center has done some nice work on health and the Internet. It turns out that three quarters of adults in the United States go online. That's probably not all that surprising, but what's more nuanced in this data is that the Internet access of individuals in the United States actually differs, depending on whether or not those individuals suffer from chronic health conditions.

It turns out that of Americans who have two or more chronic conditions, which by the way represents the vast majority of the Medicare population, only half go online. As it turns out, the very same groups that suffer most from social determinants of health, and not just from social isolation, also have the highest rates of chronic disease. And according to this research, they are the ones most likely to NOT have access to the Internet. This is called the Internet Divide.

We might be encouraged by the prevalence and penetration of mobile technologies, and maybe those would be the great bridge over the Internet Divide. Unfortunately, that may not be the case yet. According to this same Pew research, 90 percent of Americans who don't have a chronic condition actually own a cellphone. However, if you do have two or more chronic conditions, that number drops down pretty dramatically to 70 percent. That finding is a bit better than Internet access, but certainly not ubiquitous. If you look at those who have a cellphone, only 23 percent of them actually access text-messaging technologies on their cellphones, and smartphone apps fall well below that.

Source: Social Determinants and Population Health: Redesigning Care Management to Bridge Clinical and Non-Medical Services

social determinants of health

In Social Determinants and Population Health: Redesigning Care Management to Bridge Clinical and Non-Medical Services, care teams will learn that by asking patients the right questions and listening carefully to their responses, they can begin to identify and address social determinants, dramatically impacting patient outcomes as well as their own financial success under value-based care.

At MACRA Launch, Think Like a MIPS Top Performer

January 9th, 2017 by Patricia Donovan
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A focus on quality activities like influenza vaccines is a good starting point for MIPS performance improvement.

With the opening of the first Quality Payment Program performance period on January 1, 2017, many eligible healthcare providers have picked their MACRA participation pace and begun to collect performance data. In certain cases, Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) top performers and MIPS exceptional performers potentially could fare better than Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) practices. Here, Barry Allison, chief information officer, the Center for Primary Care, describes some ways clinicians can aspire toward MIPS top performer or exceptional performer status.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), a MIPS top performer must be one standard deviation point above the mean, as far as the total cost of care for the patient as well as for the quality metrics reported to CMS. This illustrates why it is critical to look at your organization's Quality and Resource Use Report (QRUR) data. From looking at our own QRUR data internally, we want to be in the 90th percentile or higher for things like annual flu shots, influenza vaccines, Pneumovax® vaccinations, or Prevnar® vaccinations in conjunction with the Pneumovax 23.

These are very key points. For most EHRs and registries, if you look at quality, that 60 percent that CMS will review in MACRA’s first year, those are the activities where you should aim to report at the high end. I would recommend anywhere from 88 percent and upwards, but my minimum would be reporting on 90 percent of areas where you can use technology to deploy a short message service (SMS) outreach campaign for influenza vaccines or similar tasks.

You want to make sure that in the areas considered low hanging fruit, that you’re either rendering those services, or if you don’t render those types of services, you direct the patient toward a Medicare provider or provider that does render those services and from whom Medicare receives that information.

Let’s take flu shots, for example. Even though your particular practice may not render that service, you should refer your patients somewhere that does administer the shots. You want to refer that patient somewhere where you know that claim will be filed to Medicare, because through their attribution methodology, you’re still that patient’s primary care provider. You still get credit right now for that quality element, even though you may not have administered the shot.

Source: Physician Chronic Care Management Reimbursement: Roadmap to MIPS Success Under MACRA

http://hin.3dcartstores.com/Home-Visits-for-Clinically-Complex-Patients-Targeting-Transitional-Care-for-Maximum-Outcomes-and-ROI_p_5180.html

Physician Chronic Care Management Reimbursement: Roadmap to MIPS Success Under MACRA describes how early adoption of Medicare's CCM Reimbursement program enhanced the Center's MACRA-readiness, laying the foundation for success under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) path.

2016 Healthcare Headlines: MACRA Monopolizes News Until Election Shake-Up

December 26th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan
top 2016 news stories

The unexpected election of Donald J. Trump to the U.S. presidency threatened some healthcare initiatives from the Obama administration, including the Affordable Care Act.

There was only one thing capable of distracting the healthcare industry in 2016 from MACRA's imminent rollout: the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency of the United States.

Nevertheless, the majority of the last twelve months was spent on healthcare business as usual—the business of transitioning to value-based models of care delivery and reimbursement.

Here are the headlines that dominated the news feeds of healthcare executives in 2016:

New CMS 'Accountable Health Communities' Model Aims to Improve Patients' Health by Addressing Social Needs

January 2016: In a first-ever CMS Innovation Center pilot project to test improving patients’ health by addressing their social needs, the HHS appropriated $157 million in funding to bridge clinical care with social services.

The new pilot will test whether screening beneficiaries for health-related social needs and associated referrals to and navigation of community-based services will improve quality and affordability in Medicare and Medicaid. Many of these social issues, such as housing instability, hunger, and interpersonal violence, affect individuals’ health, yet they may not be detected or addressed during typical healthcare-related visits.

Medicare Shares 6 Core Principles for 21 New 'Next Generation ACOs'

January 2016: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) made waves when it launched a new accountable care organization (ACO) model called the Next Generation ACO Model (NGACO Model). The twenty-one ACOs participating in the NGACO Model in 2016 have significant experience coordinating care for populations of patients through initiatives, including, but not limited to, the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Pioneer ACO Model.

Providers Slow to Adopt Population Health, Value-Based Models of Care: Study

February 2016: Most healthcare providers continue to lag in implementing population health management despite broad agreement it will be important for future market success, according to a national study by healthcare strategy consultancy Numerof & Associates. The study synthesized survey responses from more than 300 executives and in-depth interviews with over 100 key decision-makers across U.S. healthcare delivery organizations. It provided the first in-depth, national look at the pace of transition from fee-for-service to models based on fixed payments linked to outcomes.

Horizon BCBSNJ 'Episodes of Care' Program Pays $3 Million in Shared Savings to Specialty Medical Practice

February 2016: Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey (Horizon BCBSNJ) announced that it paid out approximately $3 million to 51 specialty medical practices as part of shared savings generated through the company’s innovative Episodes of Care (EOC) Program. The doctors, in five different specialty areas, earned the payments by achieving quality, cost efficiency and patient satisfaction goals in 2014 while treating more than 8,000 Horizon BCBSNJ members. The EOC model, also known as bundled payments, is one in which specialists manage the full spectrum of care related to a specific procedure, disease diagnosis or health event—such as a joint replacement or pregnancy.

Bundled Payments Improve Care for Medicare Joint Replacement Patients: NYU Langone Study

March 2016: Implementing bundled payments for total joint replacements resulted in year-over-year improvements in quality of care and patient outcomes while reducing overall costs, according to a new three-year study from NYU Langone Medical Center. The three-year pilot at the medical center reported reductions in patient length-of-stay and readmission rates.

CMS to Test New SNF Payment Model to Curb Readmissions, Foster Multidisciplinary Care

March 2016: The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced it would test whether a new payment model for nursing facilities and practitioners will further reduce avoidable hospitalizations, lower combined Medicare and Medicaid spending, and improve the quality of care received by nursing facility residents. This next phase of the Initiative to Reduce Avoidable Hospitalizations among Nursing Facility Residents seeks to reduce avoidable hospitalizations among beneficiaries eligible for Medicare and/or Medicaid by providing new payments to practitioners for engagement in multidisciplinary care planning activities.

Proposed MACRA Rule Would Streamline Medicare Value-Based Payment Models

May 2016: In issuing a proposal to align and modernize how Medicare payments are tied to the cost and quality of patient care for hundreds of thousands of doctors and other clinicians, the Department of Health & Human Services took the first step in implementing certain provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA).

Are You MACRA-Ready? Physician Groups Prep Members for Medicare Payment Modernization

May 2016: As they digested the HHS's momentous proposal to modernize how Medicare provider payments are tied to the cost and quality of patient care, physician organizations began assembling arsenals of educational tools to de-mystify MACRA. The federal government's first step in implementing certain provisions of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) was detailed in an April 2016 announcement.

CMS Releases MACRA Final Rule; Creates Two Pathways for Clinician Value-Based Payments

October 2016: The Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) finalized a landmark new payment system for Medicare clinicians that will continue the administration’s progress in reforming how the healthcare system pays for care. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) Quality Payment Program, which replaces the flawed Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR), will equip clinicians with the tools and flexibility to provide high-quality, patient-centered care.

ACA Afterlife: Unwinding Obamacare Under the Trump Administration

November 2016: If U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump delivers on his campaign promises, the 'repeal and replacement' of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be an early priority for the nation's chief executive-in-waiting. That prospect sent shock waves through the healthcare industry, as evidenced by a snapshot of post-election responses to the Healthcare Trends in 2017 survey sponsored by the Healthcare Intelligence Network.

Trump Taps Orthopedic Surgeon, Medicaid Architect to Helm U.S. Healthcare Posts, Determine ACA Fate

November 2016: Calling his nominees "the dream team that will transform our healthcare system for the benefit of all Americans," President-elect Donald J. Trump announced his plan to nominate Chairman of the House Budget Committee Congressman Tom Price, M.D. (GA-06) as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Seema Verma as administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

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Use Annual Wellness Visit to Screen for Social Determinants of Health in High-Risk Medicare Population

December 13th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

The social determinant of social isolation carries the same health risk as smoking, and double that of obesity.

With about a third of health outcomes determined by human behavior choices, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation study, improving population health should be as straightforward as fostering healthy behaviors in patients and health plan members.

But what's unstated in that data point is that the remaining 70 percent of health outcomes are determined by social determinants of health—areas that involve an individual's social and environmental condition as well as experiences that directly impact health and health status.

By addressing social determinants, healthcare organizations can dramatically impact patient outcomes as well as their own financial success under value-based care, advised Dr. Randall Williams, chief executive officer, Pharos Innovations, during Social Determinants and Population Health: Moving Beyond Clinical Data in a Value-Based Healthcare System, a December 2016 webinar now available for replay.

"The challenge is that few healthcare systems are currently equipped to identify individuals within their populations who have social determinant challenges," said Dr. Williams, "And few are still are structured to coordinate both medical and nonmedical support needs."

The Medicare annual wellness visit is an ideal opportunity to screen beneficiaries for social determinants—particularly rising and high-risk patients, who frequently face a higher percentage of social determinant challenges.

Primary social determinants include the individual's access to healthcare, their socio- and economic conditions, and factors related to their living environment such as air or water quality, availability of food, and transportation.

Dr. Williams presented several patient scenarios illustrating key social determinants, including social isolation, in which individuals, particularly the elderly, are lonely, lack companionship and frequently suffer from depression. "Social isolation carries the same health risk as smoking and double that of obesity," he said.

While technology is useful in reducing social isolation, studies by the Pew Research Center determined that segments of the population with the highest percentage of chronic illness tend to be least connected to the Internet or even to mobile technologies.

"Accountable care organizations (ACOs) and other organizations managing populations must continue to push technology-enhanced care models," said Dr. Williams, "But they also have to understand and assess technology barriers and inequalities in their populations, especially among those with chronic conditions."

In another patient scenario, loss of transportation severely hampered an eighty-year-old woman's ability to complete physical rehabilitation following a knee replacement.

Dr. Williams then described multiple approaches for healthcare organizations to begin to address social determinants in population health, including patients' cultural biases, which may make them more or less open to specific care options. This fundamental care redesign should include an environmental assessment to catalog available social and community resources, he said, providing several examples.

"This is not the kind of information you're going to find in a traditional electronic health record or even care management platforms," he concluded.

Infographic: Medicare and End-of-Life Care

November 23rd, 2016 by Melanie Matthews

Although Medicare spent significantly more on care for people at the end of life who died in 2014 ($34,529 per person) than for other beneficiaries that year ($9,121 per person), the share of total Medicare spending for people at the end of life decreased from 18.6% to 13.5% between 2000 and 2014, according to a new Visualizing Health Policy infographic by the Kaiser Family Foundation.

The infographic also examines Medicare spending for end of life care by age, Medicare spending on hospice and the impact of Medicare reimbursement to discuss end of life care, which began in January 2016.

Medicare and End-of-Life Care

Care Coordination in an ACO: Population Health Management from Wellness to End-of-LifeWhen acknowledging its position as a top-ranking Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), Memorial Hermann is quick to credit its own physicians—who in 2007 lobbied for a clinically integrated network that formed the foundation of the current Memorial Hermann accountable care organization (ACO). Now, eight years later, collaboration and integration continue to be the engines driving the ACO's cost savings, reduced utilization and healthy patient engagement rates associated with Memorial Hermann ACO's highest-risk population.

Care Coordination in an ACO: Population Health Management from Wellness to End-of-Life details Memorial Hermann's carefully executed journey to quality and the culmination of the ACO's community-based care management program.

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ACA Afterlife: Unwinding Obamacare Under the Trump Administration

November 14th, 2016 by Patricia Donovan

The people have spoken: the future of the ACA is healthcare's most pressing concern for 2017.

The people have spoken: the future of the Affordable Care Act is healthcare's most consuming concern for 2017.

If U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump delivers on his campaign promises, the 'repeal and replacement' of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) should be an early priority for the nation's chief executive-in-waiting.

That prospect sent shock waves through the healthcare industry, as evidenced by a snapshot of post-election responses to the ongoing Healthcare Trends in 2017 survey sponsored by the Healthcare Intelligence Network.

"The change or replacement of Obamacare might affect us significantly, including changing our USA market priority over other markets," contributed one respondent.

"We don't know what ACA repeal implications will mean for us," offered another.

Other respondents identified "changes to our government structure and the unknown impact" as well as "lack of clarity post-election" as their most pressing concerns for the year ahead.

Take the Healthcare Trends 2017 survey and receive an executive summary of the results.

Given Trump's ambitious healthcare agenda, much is at stake for industry stakeholders. But is it possible for the incoming administration to unravel the ACA, when the public already has been exposed to many of its provisions? And if repeal is possible, how long might the process take?

Greg Mertz, managing director for Physician Strategies Group, LLC, advises healthcare organizations not to panic about the ACA's demise. "A '“repeal and replace' means that Trump admits Obamacare can't go away. Nothing will happen quickly, and whatever happens will be less dramatic than many expect," predicts Mertz, who points to Trump's lack of specifics as to what might replace Obamacare as further evidence.

"House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has already put forward his plan for healthcare reform, so I would think his ideas will be a pivotal part of what eventually gets passed," continues Mertz. "However, Congress still decides what happens, so whatever Trump proposes will be mired in hearings, staff work, and debate for at least the next year. This means that we limp along with a broken program as we argue what is better."

Also based on Ryan's healthcare proposals, Travis Ansel, senior manager of strategic services for Healthcare Strategy Group, is advising providers to brace for more Health Savings Account (HSA)-related payment woes. "Ryan's plans for Medicare, which have loomed over the industry for five years, bring with them increased patient payment obligations," Ansel explains. "Expect more and more employer-based coverages to shift to HSAs as well. We can expect payors to raise insurance premiums across the board as the Republican-led Congress unwinds the ACA."

Ansel pointed out that major payors were forced to shift their business models and infrastructure to compete in an ACA-focused market. "The quick shift back will be a reality these payors are not prepared for and not prepared to succeed under," he concludes.

As payor margins suffer, adds Mertz, pressure will be placed on commercial insurers to raise reimbursement to offset the gap. "Employers will howl and the feds will be pressured to control costs, especially big pharma."

Where Mertz does expect activity is within the Health Insurance Exchanges created by the ACA. "The insurance exchanges are in trouble already, so we would expect that providers that were seeing significant numbers of exchange-insured individuals would have likely seen a drop in those numbers regardless. I think the number of uninsured will increase in the short-term, as many will decide that paying the penalty is better than paying the premium."

As to what healthcare might look like under the Trump administration, Mertz thinks the industry will see tax credits or vouchers. "However, I seriously doubt we'll see a government-sponsored alternative, which I think we would have seen with (the Democratic presidential nominee) former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton."

On the provider side, Mertz expects that while physicians will see little impact, hospitals will see a rise in charity care, and no major increase in income.

For a post-election roadmap to the challenges and opportunities facing healthcare in the year ahead under GOP leadership, don't miss Trends Shaping the Healthcare Industry in 2017: A Strategic Planning Session, a live webcast on Thursday, November 17 at 1:30 Eastern.

Take the Healthcare Trends 2017 survey and receive an executive summary of the results.