Tag: Insurance

KFF 2020 Employer Health Benefits Survey

From the Kaiser Family Foundation on October 8

This annual survey of employers provides a detailed look at trends in employer-sponsored health coverage, including premiums, employee contributions, cost-sharing provisions, offer rates, wellness programs, and employer practices. The 2020 survey included 1,765 interviews with non-federal public and private firms.

Annual premiums for employer-sponsored family health coverage reached $21,342 this year, up 4% from last year, with workers on average paying $5,588 toward the cost of their coverage. The average deductible among covered workers in a plan with a general annual deductible is $1,644 for single coverage. Fifty-five percent of small firms and 99% of large firms offer health benefits to at least some of their workers, with an overall offer rate of 56%.

Survey results are released in several formats, including a full report with downloadable tables on a variety of topics, a summary of findings, and an article published in the journal Health Affairs.

Recovering Loss of Revenue from “not at fault” Accidents

When your units get hit by a third party and the vehicle is out of service, are you getting Loss of Revenue for the downtime while the unit is being repaired? Whether you answered yes or no to that question, reading this article will be the one of the most lucrative uses of your time this year.

A call comes in and your dispatcher does a perfect job of answering and scheduling the run. The EMT’s jump into the clean, fueled, and well stocked ambulance responding to the call. Then from out of nowhere, a car turns directly into the ambulance’s path rolling through a stop sign. Now what? You have two paramedics stranded on the side of the road who will be spending the next few hours on paperwork and drug testing. In addition, all the drugs and small equipment need to be removed or secured. Hopefully you have another unit to dispatch or your competitor may have already been called.

What happens next is key to getting maximum recovery for your losses caused by the accident.

Key items that help maximize your recovery from accidents:

  1. Educate and equip fleet drivers with the tools necessary to collect key accident information at the scene and relay it. This includes a description of the accident, clear color pictures of the accident scene, the damaged vehicles, and third-party driver’s license and insurance information.
  2. Gather as many witnesses as possible and statements from both drivers.
  3. On board videos are great, but if not, having a smart phone video of the damage and intersection can be very helpful if the liability is in question.
  4. Get an accurate and thorough estimate. Be aware that, for the most part, insurance companies are motivated to pay out the least amount possible to get the claim settled. Their adjusters are typically not trained accurately determine the damage to specialty vehicles or the equipment they may contain. Using a TPA with strong experience with commercial fleets is critical.

We are surprised how many firms don’t realize or understand what they are entitled to recover because of an accident where their driver was not at fault. Essentially, the law supports that the owner is entitled to the use of their “chattel” and compensation pursuant to the same. Here is an interesting titbit. Chattel is originally a Latin and old French term referring to moveable personal property. A good term to throw out at the next risk managers meeting to impress everyone. With that said, what you are entitled to and what shows up in your mailbox are two drastically different things. Insurance companies are motivated to pay the least amount possible and delay that payment as long as possible.

Most people assume that insurance companies make money when they generate more in premiums than they pay out in losses and expenses, but for the most part that’s not true. Most insurers are happy to break even on their underwriting and make their money by investing the premiums and keeping the investment returns.

What am I entitled to from a “not at fault” accident? There are a lot of factors influencing this, but essentially you are entitled to your physical damage, diminution of value, and loss of use/revenue. How much you are entitled to are the subjective negotiations that firms like ours engage in hundreds of times each day. Driver liability, statute of limitations and minimum policy limits vary from state to state. Typically, the state where the accident happens will be the applicable laws and regulations.

If I have a spare unit to take the place of the damaged vehicle, am I still entitled to Loss of Revenue? The short answer is yes, but getting the carrier to ink the check is another matter. There are real costs of having a spare unit which is why the law supports the loss of the use as a recoverable item. Acquisition cost, maintenance, licensing, certification, insurance, and storage are all costs incurred by having a spare unit.

Pursuing Loss Recovery

The following are steps fleets can take to help maximize recovery:

  1. Pursue all possible recoveries. There is often potential recovery from the third-party drivers in the form of an umbrella policy, company policy, or personal assets. Driver liability, statute of limitations and minimum policy limits vary from state to state. The key is to know which accidents offer what potential in which states, and then to pursue recovery using the latest industry tools as quickly as possible.
  2. Follow insurance industry documentation standards. The required forms need to be properly completed and submitted to the third-party driver’s insurance carrier. Knowing insurance industry regulations, standards, and the law are key to move the carriers to action. Technically, a carrier can wait 30 days after receiving a demand before taking action on the claim.
  3. A key component to Loss of Revenue is accurate records showing the income the unit generated prior to the accident. This is the hardest to recover and gets the most pushback from the insurance companies. Putting the data in a format that meets the insurance company’s needs varies by company.
  4. Even after the carrier has agreed to pay, be prepared to make a lot of follow-up calls and emails to get your claim paid. A common tactic used by carriers is to drag out the claim hoping you will either give up or accept less. Essentially wearing you down.

The second key recovery component is Diminution of Value (DV), or Loss of Market Value the vehicle suffers even after it is repaired. Age of the vehicle, miles, condition, and other factors determine this amount. Without a strong recovery plan or Third Party Administrator (TPA), we see significant diminution of value left on the table. The key here is strong data which supports your valuation utilizing use multiple sources and have extensive experience and a successful track record for recovering DV.

Getting accurate value when a vehicle is a total loss. The term “Total Loss” is an insurance term lacking legal definition. Carriers have often used title branding laws to determine if a vehicle is a “Total Loss”. While each state has different criteria for “branding” titles, vehicles can, and have been, paid as total losses with damage percentages well below the title branding statutes. Carriers often tout statements such as “Federal Guidelines” or “State Statutes” when attempting to settle claims. More accurately, legal entitlements are based upon what is called the Restatement of Torts, and defined by case law in each state. Typically, property and casualty insurance adjusters don’t understand these laws and again are motived to pay out the minimum possible. Engaging a firm that specializes in commercial fleet claims can provide an arm’s length transaction necessary to be pro-active on the front side in setting the claim up properly, which usually results in a higher recovery.

So how do you win at the recovery game? Well unfortunately you are in a game where the opponent is highly motivated to not pay or pay the least possible, has their own set of rules on how much you should get, and make most of their profit on dragging out a payment when they finally do decide to pay.

There are essentially three routes you can pursue.

  1. Handle the claims yourself. Unless you have extensive knowledge in the law and insurance industry, plus have ample time to talk to the voicemails of insurance carriers, this option may not be ideal.
  2. Let your insurance company handle the claim. They will pay your Physical Damage, but rarely does the policy have coverage for Loss of Revenue and Diminution of Value.
  3. Hire a TPA (Third Party Administer) to handle the claims for you. Select a firm with a long track record, experience with specialty vehicles, adequate technology, a strong legal department, and specializes in Loss of Revenue recovery. Make sure their fees are performance based and they only win if you do. They can recover Loss of Revenue, Diminution of Value (inherent and repair related) and other costs typically not recovered.

Few fleets have the number of trained personnel in each of these areas to adopt these best practices. If the fleet’s resources are already stretched to capacity, consider outsourcing to a TPA. The chances are the partnership will yield state-of-the-art best practices and more than pay for itself.

I hope you found this article helpful, don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or to learn more.

Brian J. Ludlow is Executive Vice President for Alternative Claims Management. He is an entrepreneur and consultant to the insurance, financial, and transportation industries. Brian specializes in disruptive technologies. His firm has transformed the accident claims recovery process.

bludlow@AltClaim.com | 231-330-0515

Employer-Sponsored Healthcare Spending Soars

A recent report published by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI) found that employer sponsored healthcare spending rose in 2016 even thought patients sought less healthcare.  The article found that the average spending per person grew 4.6% in 2016 and has cumulatively grown by 15% since 2012.  The majority of the spending increase was attributed to outpatient service, ER visits, and prescription drugs.  Modern Healthcare published an article about the report which showed that most employers held down their costs by shifting their employees to high-deductible plans.  Many ambulance services have had to shoulder much of the increase costs of employee healthcare in an effort to avoid shifting too much additional expense onto employees.  This trend is projected to continue and encourages employers to offer, and employees to contribute to a health saving accounts as a way to insulate unexpected high deductible obligations.  With the uncertain future what remains of the ACA, we will continue to watch for strategies to help ambulance services to keep healthcare cost increases to a minimum.

Executive Order on Association Health Plans (AHP)

Yesterday, the White House announced that President Trump has signed an Executive Order that directs the Secretary of Labor to consider expanding access to Association Health Plans (AHP) would give employers the right to form groups in multiple states for the purposes of negotiating health care benefits.  A change would require an change to the interpretation of Employee Retirement Security Act (ERISA).  In addition, the Executive Order directed the Departments of the TreasuryLabor, and Health and Human Services to consider changing several ACA restrictions, including low-cost short term limited duration insurance (STDLI) and Health Reimbursement Accounts (HRAs).  This Executive Order may impact the ACA insurance markets because it may attract the younger and healthier away from current plan groups causing those coverage costs to increase substantially.

Trump Administration Interim HHS Rule

In a surprising announcement by the Trump Administration late Friday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) the Administration released an interim rule that rolled back the Obama Administration rules regarding the requirement of employer sponsored health plans to pay for “preventative services” which included birth control and abortion procedures under religious or moral objections. The move has initiated legal action by the Attorney General in Massachusetts who announced yesterday that she has filed a suit in U.S. District Court yesterday.

Key facts about the interim final rules:

  • The regulations exempt entities only from providing an otherwise mandated item to which they object on the basis of their religious beliefs or moral conviction.
  • The regulation leaves in place preventive services coverage guidelines where no religious or moral objection exists. The Administration is asserting that out of millions of employers in the U.S., these exemptions would only impact about 200 entities.
  • Current law itself already exempts over 25 million people from the preventive-care mandate because they are insured through an entity that has a health insurance plan that existed prior to the Obamacare statute.
  • The regulations leave in place government programs that provide free or subsidized contraceptive coverage to low income women, such as through community health centers.
  • These regulations do not ban any drugs or devices.
  • The mandate as defined by the previous administration suffered defeats in court after court, including the Supreme Court, which ruled that the government cannot punish business owners for their faith.

Employers can read the final version of the interim rule. With certainty, there will be numerous legal challenges regarding these rules. We will keep our members updated regarding these new rules and the legal challenges as they develop.

Patient Satisfaction and the Collections Conundrum

Emergency Strikes

The year was 2001—seems like a distant memory. Expecting our first child, my wife and I were living in Modesto, California, thinking about cradles and nurseries. We were so excited—the little one we’d been expecting was on his way! Excitement quickly changed to deep concern as we learned there were some major complications with the pregnancy and our baby was in serious jeopardy. Life’s pause button was pushed as everything else in the world came to a screeching halt.

An ambulance transport and emergency delivery later, we found ourselves in our new home—the neonatal intensive care unit. For the next four months, we worked with medical teams around the clock to slowly usher our new 1-pound, 4-ounce son, Noah (now 15 years old), into the world.

Financial Domino Effects

This was an incredibly stressful time in our lives. Of all the things that burdened us, one of the most memorable was the nearly $5,000 invoice we received for a specific service. With no clue how we would pay this, I finally worked up the courage to pick up the phone and call the number on the invoice. The provider was demanding immediate payment before sending the bill to collections.

Me? Collections? But I’m the good guy, right? People should be reaching out to care for me. What just happened? After days of multiple information exchanges between me, the billing office and my insurance carrier, we finally figured it out—all charges were to be covered by insurance.

While our care through this time was generally very good, this unexpected charge put a cloud over the provider who lacked the proper information—despite a 120-day inpatient stay. Why did the provider send our bill to collections without contacting us? Where was the disconnect? Does this still happen today?

Fast Forward 15 Years to Smarter Billing and Collections

Sadly, this is not an isolated incident. Everyone knows a person with a similar story. But what if this patient billing story could be different? What if instead of multiple collection agency invoices demanding payment, I had been contacted early in the process? Or better yet, what if everything had occurred behind the scenes between provider and payor?

Technology advancements have narrowed the data gap that created these and other tensions for patients, providers and insurance carriers. Health care providers today can better serve their patients and communities through technology. The systems required to instantly supply insurance information and ensure patient-friendly billing are now available. It’s a matter of awareness and investment. Two key technology strategies are rapidly emerging to make collection letters and calls a thing of the past.

Real-Time Insurance Discovery

Insurance discovery solutions help providers find hidden insurance coverage for patients up front versus after the fact. Especially in emergency or self-pay situations, patients may have coverage the provider doesn’t know about. Finding coverage provides a tremendous boost to patient satisfaction and financial engagement.

For providers, finding and securing coverage early in the encounter helps billing teams circumvent months of patient statement and collection efforts. Operational costs are reduced and payor reimbursement is hastened. Best practices are rapidly emerging on how to incorporate real-time insurance discovery within patient registration and billing workflows.

Payment Likelihood Determinations

Where insurance coverage can’t be found or high deductibles result in exorbitant patient financial responsibilities, checking “payability” becomes crucial. Patients with minimal cash reserves or low propensity to pay can be moved to charity care, Medicaid, or account write-off. Families likely to qualify for financial assistance are also quickly identified by using payment likelihood applications.

Billers and collectors are more efficient and effective without damaging patient relations or community reputation. It is often a smarter long-term decision to write off patient balances in those cases where personal bankruptcy is only one medical bill away.

Proactive financial engagement, insurance discovery and smart collections are in the early stages in healthcare. However, provider organizations that embrace more patient-friendly billing strategies can significantly promote patient satisfaction and long-term community benefits.

Ted Williams has been a featured presenter at regional and national EMS conferences, including the state medical associations, ambulance networks, and technology user group conferences. Williams is a founder of Payor Logic, a national provider of healthcare revenue cycle solutions.

Ransomware: A Ticking Time Bomb for Health Care

By Cindy Elbert
President, Cindy Elbert Insurance Services, Inc

If you’re doing business online, you need cyber-insurance. This fact was never made truer than on May 12, 2017 when 50,000 businesses in at least 74 countries were hit by a ransomware attack code named “WannaCry”. Hackers demanded companies to pay a $300 ransom fee or their files would be published on the Internet. The data thieves targeted mostly hospitals and other medical facilities because their data not only included names, home addresses, addiction histories, financial information and religious affiliations but also disclosed patients’ mental health and medical diagnoses, HIV statuses and sexual assault and domestic violence reports. A gold mine of personal information for those with dark purposes.

Two days earlier, a data breach at the Bronx Lebanon Hospital Center in New York compromised the medical records of at least 7,000 people. According to NBC News, “Leaks from the Rsync servers, which transfer and synchronize files across systems, are common. How many more nude photos of patients or ultrasound images will be exposed because of misconfigured Rsync backups?”

On May 4, 2017, a group calling themselves TheDarkOverload uploaded almost 180,000 stolen patient/medical records from three companies onto the Internet because they refused to pay a ransom. The databases stolen were in the .csv format and contained health information about cardiac diagnoses and psychiatric conditions such as depression, along with date of birth and social security numbers.

Most ransomware attacks are led by organized criminal groups utilizing a network of computers infected with malware that then poisons other computers once a spam message is opened. An example of a spam malware would be emails falsely marked as being from a co-worker or friend asking a recipient to open an attached file. Or, an email might come from a trusted institution, like a bank or merchant, asking you to perform a specific task. In other instances, hackers will use scare tactics such as claiming that a victim’s computer has been used for illegal activities to bully victims. When the malware is executed, it encrypts files and demands a ransom to unlock them.

Imagine the nightmare scenario of medical teams out on the field relying on electronic devices such as tablets, laptops, smartphones and PDAs to access patient care records suddenly discovering that their data has been locked, captured by malicious malware., held for ransom with lives in the balance.

Companies need the protection cyber liability insurance offers now more than ever.

Why Your Company Needs Cyber Liability Insurance

  • A single data breach could cost your company thousands of dollars, not to mention the hit to your reputation.
  • Hackers can be halfway across the world—or at the desk next to you.
  • An employee losing a company laptop or cell phone could result in a major security breach.
  • The more personal information your company collects opens your exposure to the likelihood of a data breach attack.
  • As of March 28, 2017, Internet providers can collect and sell your web browser history opening more opportunities for data to be stolen.
  • The average forensic investigation runs $25,000 per server.

Cyberthreats By the Numbers

  • Sixty percent of uninsured small businesses close their doors within six months following a cyber attack.
  • According to the 2016 NetDiligence Cyber Claims study, Healthcare data breaches made up 19% of all breach sectors.
  • The average cost for a breached healthcare company is $717,000.
  • According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2017 Data Breach report, almost 2 million records have been stolen so far this year, making up 22 percent of all breaches – and this is before the “WannaCry” ransomware attack.
  • Forty-seven states mandate that your company take certain measures in the event of a security breach

Protect Your Company

Ransomware attacks and cyber theft will not be defeated any time soon. So now is the time to ask: How do you store sensitive information? How do you control access to sensitive information? Do you utilize a firewall and protection software? Do you allow employees and others remote access to your data bases? Do you have a written security policy? And, most importantly, do you have cyber liability insurance? Is it safe? If your company stores customer information, especially billing and medical data, then there is no question about it: You must protect yourself from the growing legion of cyber predators. You need cyber liability insurance.

About the Author

Cindy Elbert is President of Cindy Elbert Insurance Services, Inc. She is a licensed Property & Casualty Insurance broker/agent, and a proud member of the American Ambulance Association, California Ambulance Association, Arizona Ambulance Association, and The Independent Agents Association.

Cindy has been assisting ambulance providers with their insurance needs since 1982. She understands your questions and concerns and with her relationships with insurance underwriters she can provide you with coverage and service you deserve.
www.ambulanceinsurance.com
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UnitedHealthCare Denials for ALS-2 Claims

Talking Medicare

with Brian S. Werfel, AAA Medicare Consultant

Over the past few weeks, we have received emails from ambulance providers across the country reporting that UnitedHealthCare (UHC) has started to deny claims for the ALS-2 base rate. Affected claims include both commercial and Medicare Advantage claims. These providers are reporting that UHC is requiring the use of Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) Codes to support the ALS-2 level of service.

When these providers call UHC to question the denials, the customer service representative refers them to UHC’s online policies and procedures manual. The section of that manual devoted to the ALS-2 base rate largely mirrors Medicare’s definition. For example, it indicates that ALS-2 can be billed based on three separate administrations of one or more medications by IV push/bolus or continuous infusion, or upon provision of one or more of the designated ALS-2 procedures (e.g., an endotracheal intubation).

However, the manual section then goes on to indicate that “Ambulance Providers or Suppliers are required to report CPT or HCPCS codes… when reporting A0433Ambulance transport services that do not include the services described in criteria 1 or 2 above should be reported with a more appropriate ambulance transport code.

The manual section concludes with links to two lists of CPT codes. The first list, designated as “ALS2 Criteria 1 Codes” relate to the intravenous administration of various medications. These codes fall within the range of: 96365 – 96376. The second list, designated as “ALS2 Criteria 2 Codes” correspond to the various ALS interventions:

CPT Code:                            Description:
31500                                    Endotracheal Intubation, Emergency
31603                                    Under Incision Procedures on Trachea and Bronchi
31605                                    Under Incision Procedures on Trachea and Bronchi
36000                                    Under Intravenous Vascular Introduction & Injection Procedure
36555                                    Central Venous Catheter Placement, Patient Under Five Years
36556                                    Central Venous Catheter Placement, Patient Over Five Years
36568                                    Insertion of Central Venous Access Device
36569                                    PICC Line Insertion
36680                                    Intraosseous Line Infusions
92950                                    Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation
92953                                    Other Therapeutic Cardiovascular Services
92960                                    External Electrical Cardioversion, Non-Emergency
92961                                    External Electrical Cardioversion, Emergency

The ambulance providers have indicated that they have questioned UHC on the necessity of including CPT codes on these claims. These providers argue, correctly, that CMS does not require the use of CPT codes on Medicare claims. Instead, Medicare requires the ambulance provider to document in the billing narrative the justification for billing ALS-2. For example, a provider might list multiple administrations of epinephrine, the use of an intraosseous line, etc.

The fact that UHC is asking for the CPT codes suggests that it does not currently review the billing narratives. Instead, UHC appears to be using the CPT codes to ensure that the ALS-2 criteria are met.

Is UHC correct to insist upon the use of CPT codes? Probably not, at least for its Medicare Advantage claims. However, I think the more appropriate question to ask ourselves is whether it is worth fighting UHC on this issue? If using CPT codes ensure that UHC correctly processes and pays these claims with minimal delay, my opinion is that it is probably easier just to comply with their policy.

Have an issue you would like to see discussed in a future Talking Medicare blog? Please write to me at bwerfel@aol.com.

Time to Automate

Founded in 1964, now nationally recognized, Mohawk Ambulance Service is the largest privately owned ambulance service in upstate New York. Our organization services six emergency centers, makes 56,000 trips annually and employs a team of more than 250 staff members. Eighty percent of our trips are for emergency transports where patients are unknown, in critical condition or have no identifying information. Finding fast, efficient ways to verify demographics and discover insurance coverage for these patients is imperative for our revenue cycle and our bottom line.

We’ve always worked closely with our local hospitals and nursing homes to obtain information. Many standard processes have been refined over the years with checks and balances to verify coverage, screen deductibles and reduce eligibility-related rejections before claims are submitted to a payor. But our billing team knew we could do more to eliminate duplicate data entry and processing lag time.

This article describes our journey to a more streamlined billing process. It includes lessons learned and best-practice recommendations for other EMS providers looking to improve staff efficiency and reduce receivables.

First Stop: Real-Time Insurance Discovery

The first area we tackled was insurance discovery where we had three employees stationed. We focused on our self-pay patients and transports lacking complete demographic or insurance information. The goal was to eliminate manual steps and workflow lags—which we quickly achieved.

The original process involved building a list, submitting it to Payor Logic, waiting three days for feedback, and then re-entering information into our billing system. By bringing our vendors together to meet with our team, a real-time technology solution was developed and implemented.

Now our insurance verification team has immediate access to Payor Logic’s search capabilities. Insurance discovery is an online, real-time process. Lists, batches, searching websites and waiting for results have all been eliminated. Also, the two vendors built a crosswalk that integrates insurance coverage results back into our billing system to eliminate duplicate data entry and rekeying.

The productivity our verification team is now able to achieve is amazing. They now do the work of three staff with only two employees—a 30 percent boost in staff efficiency for insurance verification.

Billing also Gets Tech Boost

At Mohawk, we use a combination of technology solutions to support our revenue cycle. But each company worked independently—creating separate silos. Billers would have to search across several different systems, payor websites and the digital pages to collate all the various demographic and insurance data required to submit a claim. We had technology, but the process remained cumbersome and labor intensive.

By working with our vendors, we built points of integration to increase the number of claims processed without adding billing staff. For example, once a biller pulls up a trip, dozens of data elements from the billing system are uploaded into a single view to eliminate searching and save time.

Everything the biller needs to complete a claim is displayed in a consolidated view, consistent across all Mohawk companies. Billers can easily see patient signature, facility signature, narrative, vital signs, advanced life support and more. This level of integration eliminates the need to look at every page of the system to build the claim—saving dozens of hours every week.

Lessons Learned

Like most EMS providers, our mission is to uphold the highest standard of services with consistent devotion to delivering superior emergency medical care. And through this automation project, we took service excellence one step further—delivering world-class service throughout our billing process. We find more insurance coverage, reduce eligibility-related rejections, convert self-pay accounts and collect more revenue from the right source. Results thus far include:

  1. 30% improvement in staff efficiency for insurance verification
  2. 67% less time needed per case to screen for Medicare deductibles
  3. 100% elimination of wait times to discover billable insurance for self-pay patients

EMS providers looking to streamline the billing process should revisit their existing technology applications and engage in serious discussions with current vendors. New capabilities are out there and should be explored. The automation efforts described above have resulted in an efficiency uptick for Mohawk, despite being short staffed. New workflows for verification are being maintained by our team and next steps for automation expansion are being discussed. By keeping open communications and an ongoing dialogue with all parties involved, this automation experience has been a win-win for our business, our staff and our patients.

CMS Issues Final Market Stabilization Rule

On Thursday, April 13, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final “Marketplace Stabilization Rule”. This is the final version of a rule that was first proposed on February 15, 2017. Last month, AAA consultant, Kathy Lester, published a blog post explaining the then proposed rule (“Administration’s Proposed Rule on Marketplace Stabilization”).

The final rule makes several policy changes to improve the market and promote stability, including:

    • 2018 Annual Open Enrollment Period: The final rule adjusts the annual open enrollment period for 2018 to more closely align with Medicare and the private market. The next open enrollment period will start on November 1, 2017, and run through December 15, 2017, encouraging individuals to enroll in coverage prior to the beginning of the year.
    • Reduce Fraud, Waste, and Abuse:  The final rule promotes program integrity by requiring individuals to submit supporting documentation for special enrollment periods and ensures that only those who are eligible are able to enroll. It will encourage individuals to stay enrolled in coverage all year, reducing gaps in coverage and resulting in fewer individual mandate penalties and help to lower premiums.
    • Promote Continuous Coverage: The final rule promotes personal responsibility by allowing issuers to require individuals to pay back past due premiums before enrolling into a plan with the same issuer the following year. This is intended to address gaming and encourage individuals to maintain continuous coverage throughout the year, which will have a positive impact on the risk pool.
    • Ensure More Choices for Consumers:  For the 2018 plan year and beyond, the final rule allows issuers additional actuarial value flexibility to develop more choices with lower premium options for consumers, and to continue offering existing plans.
    • Empower States & Reduce Duplication:  The final rule reduces waste of taxpayer dollars by eliminating duplicative review of network adequacy by the federal government.  The rule returns oversight of network adequacy to states that are best positioned to evaluate network adequacy.

Read the Final Rule

Administration’s Proposed Rule on Marketplace Stabilization

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the “Marketplace Stabilization Proposed Rule” (Proposed Rule). Overall, the rule proposes a series of modifications to the Marketplaces that align with requests made by issuers in an attempt to keep them in the Marketplaces. The background section of the Proposed Rule emphasizes the concerns of issuers and the Agency’s interest in making sure that consumers have more plan options for 2018. Comments are due March 7.

While ambulance services are not directly mentioned, the Proposed Rule could affect the ability of individuals in the marketplace to enroll and remain enrolled in plans. Another provision that could impact the ambulance industry is the proposal to rely more upon the States to enforce the network adequacy requirements of the ACA.  

Changes to Open Enrollment/Special Enrollment Periods

CMS proposes to tighten the enrollment rules in several ways. First, the Proposed Rule would change the open enrollment period to November 1 – December 15 to “increase the incentives for individuals to maintain enrollment in health coverage and decrease the incentives for individuals to enroll only after they discover they require services.”[1]  Individuals may still be eligible for a special enrollment period that would allow them to enroll outside of these dates.

CMS would increase the States’ pre-enrollment verification from 50 percent to 100 percent beginning June 1, 2017, and require consumers’ enrollment requests to be “pended” until verification is complete. CMS encourages State-based Exchanges to adopt a similar policy. The Proposed Rule would also limit the ability of existing Exchange enrollees to change plan metal levels during the coverage year.  It would allow Exchanges to require enrollees that qualify for a special enrollment period because of a dependent to be add only to the current Qualified Health Plan (QHP) or allow the enrollee and the new dependent to enroll in another QHP within the same level of coverage.[2]

The Proposed Rule would also require that if an enrollee or the dependent is not enrolled in a silver level QHP and becomes newly eligible for cost-sharing reductions and qualifies for the special enrollment periods, the Exchange may allow the enrollee and dependent to enroll in only a QHP at the silver level.[3] CMS also proposes a new restriction that would allow the Exchange only to allow an enrollee and dependents who qualify for remaining special enrollment periods to make changes to their enrollment in the same QHP or to change to another QHP within the same level of coverage, if other QHPs at that metal level are available.[4]

CMS would allow consumers to start their coverage one month later than their effective date would ordinarily have been, if the special enrollment period verification process results in a delay in their enrollment such that they would be required to pay two or more months of retroactive premium to effectuate coverage or avoid termination for non- payment. [5]

Additionally, CMS would permit the issuer to reject an enrollment for which the issuer has a record of termination due to non-payment of premiums unless the individual fulfills obligations for premiums due for previous coverage.

The Proposed Rule also expresses concern that some consumers not seeking coverage until they are married. CMS proposes that if consumers are newly enrolling in QHP coverage through the Exchange through the special enrollment period for marriage, at least one spouse must demonstrate having had minimum essential coverage for 1 or more days during the 60 days preceding the date of marriage. There is a special rule for individuals who may not have been living in the United States prior to their marriage.[6]

The Proposed Rule would also significantly limit the use of the exceptional circumstances special enrollment period. In previous years, this special enrollment period has been used to address eligibility or enrollment issues that affect large cohorts of individuals where they had made reasonable efforts to enroll, but were hindered by outside events. If the proposal were adopted, CMS would apply a more rigorous test for future uses of the exceptional circumstances special enrollment period, including requiring supporting documentation where practicable. It would grant this special enrollment period only if provided with sufficient evidence to conclude that the consumer’s situation was truly exceptional and in instances where it is verifiable that consumers were directly impacted by the circumstance, as practicable.[7]

CMS is also exploring ways to incentivize consumers to maintain continuous coverage.

These proposed special enrollment changes would not apply to special enrollment periods under the Small Business Health Options Program (SHOP).[8]

Network Adequacy

CMS proposes changes to the oversight of network adequacy requirements to “affirm the traditional role of States in overseeing their health insurance markets while reducing the regulatory burden of participating in Exchanges for issuers.”[9]

CMS proposes to rely on State reviews for network adequacy in States in which an FFE is operating, provided the State has a sufficient network adequacy review process, rather than performing a time and distance evaluation. Beginning in plan year 2018, it would defer to the States’ reviews in States with the authority that is at least equal to the “reasonable access standard” and means to assess issuer network adequacy, regardless of whether the Exchange is a State-based Exchange or federally facilitated, and regardless of whether the State performs plan management functions.

In States without the authority or means to conduct sufficient network adequacy reviews, CMS would rely on an issuer’s accreditation (commercial or Medicaid) from an HHS-recognized accrediting entity. HHS has previously recognized 3 accrediting entities for the accreditation of QHPs: the National Committee for Quality Assurance, URAC, and Accreditation Association for Ambulatory Health Care. An unaccredited issuer would have to submit an access plan.

Interpretation of the Guaranteed Availability Requirement

CMS proposes revising the interpretation of the guaranteed availability requirement to allow issuers to apply a premium payment to an individual’s past debt owed for coverage from the same issuer enrolled in within the prior 12 month. CMS argues this change is necessary to “remov[e] economic incentives individuals may have had to pay premiums only when they were in need of health care services and to encourag[e] individuals to maintain continuous coverage throughout the year and prevent gaming.”[10]

De Minimis Variation in the Actuarial Values

CMS proposes increasing the de minimis variation in the actuarial values (AVs) used to determine metal levels of coverage for the 2018 plan year to “allow issuers greater flexibility in designing new plans and to provide additional options for issuers to keep cost sharing the same from year to year.”[11]

Essential Community Providers

CMS proposes allowing issuers to use a write-in process to identify essential community providers (ECPs) who are not on the HHS list of available ECPs for the 2018 plan year; and lower the ECP standard to 20 percent (rather than 30 percent).[12] 

[1] CMS Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act; Market Stabilization Proposed Rule.

[2]Id.

[3]Id.

[4]Id.

[5]Id.

[6]Id.

[7]Id.

[8]Id.

[9]Id.

[10]Id.

[11]Id.

[12]Id.

CMS Proposes Rule to Increase Patients’ 2018 Insurance Choices

This morning, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule for 2018. The AAA is currently drafting a member advisory on this proposed rule and it will be released soon. The text of the rule is below.

The rule proposes new reforms that are critical to stabilizing the individual and small group health insurance markets to help protect patients. This proposed rule would make changes to special enrollment periods, the annual open enrollment period, guaranteed availability, network adequacy rules, essential community providers, and actuarial value requirements; and announces upcoming changes to the qualified health plan certification timeline.

“Americans participating in the individual health insurance markets deserve as many health insurance options as possible,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.  “This proposal will take steps to stabilize the Marketplace, provide more flexibility to states and insurers, and give patients access to more coverage options. They will help protect Americans enrolled in the individual and small group health insurance markets while future reforms are being debated.”

The rule proposes a variety of policy and operational changes to stabilize the Marketplace, including:

  • Special Enrollment Period Pre-Enrollment Verification: The rule proposes to expand pre-enrollment verification of eligibility to individuals who newly enroll through special enrollment periods in Marketplaces using the HealthCare.gov platform. This proposed change would help make sure that special enrollment periods are available to all who are eligible for them, but will require individuals to submit supporting documentation, a common practice in the employer health insurance market. This will help place downward pressure on premiums, curb abuses, and encourage year-round enrollment.
  • Guaranteed Availability: The rule proposes to address potential abuses by allowing an issuer to collect premiums for prior unpaid coverage, before enrolling a patient in the next year’s plan with the same issuer. This will incentivize patients to avoid coverage lapses.
  • Determining the Level of Coverage: The rule proposes to make adjustments to the de minimis range used for determining the level of coverage by providing greater flexibility to issuers to provide patients with more coverage options.
  • Network Adequacy: The proposed rule takes an important step in reaffirming the traditional role of states to serve their populations. In the review of qualified health plans, CMS proposes to defer to the states’ reviews in states with the authority and means to assess issuer network adequacy. States are best positioned to ensure their residents have access to high quality care networks.
  • Qualified Health Plan (QHP) Certification Calendar: In the rule, CMS announces its intention to release a revised proposed timeline for the QHP certification and rate review process for plan year 2018. The revised timeline would provide issuers with additional time to implement proposed changes that are finalized prior to the 2018 coverage year. These changes will give issuers flexibility to incorporate benefit changes and maximize the number of coverage options available to patients.
  • Open Enrollment Period: The rule also proposes to shorten the upcoming annual open enrollment period for the individual market. For the 2018 coverage year, we propose an open enrollment period of November 1, 2017, to December 15, 2017.  This proposed change will align the Marketplaces with the Employer-Sponsored Insurance Market and Medicare, and help lower prices for Americans by reducing adverse selection.

Read the Proposed Rule