Tag Archive: Medicaid

Individual health insurance segment will continue to face existential crisis post-election

Source: Health Affairs Blog. http://healthaffairs.org/blog/2017/02/08/the-marketplace-premiums-increase-underwriting-cycle-or-death-spiral/


Regardless of what the incoming Trump administration and Congress opt to do with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s reforms of the individual health insurance market, the segment will continue to face an existential crisis. The individual market remains the problem stepchild of health coverage, playing an important but relatively minor role in a siloed scheme dominated by employer sponsored coverage for a solid majority of those under age 65 and the big government entitlement programs of Medicare and Medicaid for most of the rest. Not to mention the other integrated government run care systems for active duty military members and their dependents and military veterans.

Given its place in the overall scheme of things, individual health insurance is the remainder market of last resort for those not covered by the dominant private and public systems. It functions as a high turnover, temporary segment that’s inherently unstable. People move in and out of coverage due to changing life circumstances or obtaining eligibility for coverage under one of the dominant systems. Others possess a deeply ingrained “culture of coping” as some have termed it to get medical care where it’s the most easily accessible and affordable such as hospital emergency departments, community clinics and free care events. That coping culture includes avoiding paying for individual health insurance, a pattern in place decades before the Affordable Care Act’s individual market reforms went into effect in 2014. It’s not going to be changed quickly even as health plan issuers are required to accept all applicants without regard to medical history and the law provides subsidies for premiums and out of pocket expenses to low and moderate income households.

That instability makes it very challenging for the basic insurance principle of risk spreading since the risk being insured against is highly dynamic. Actuaries base their projections on relatively stable risk pools and flows of premium dollars into the pool. As long as “covered lives” are moving in and out of the individual market, that desired actuarial predictability will remain elusive, the Affordable Care Act’s carrots and sticks aimed at stabilizing the pool notwithstanding.

As policymakers reassess the Affordable Care Act health insurance market reforms in the post-election period, they might well reexamine an assumption of the law that small group coverage would be eclipsed by the reformed individual market. It was expected that by making individual market coverage more like small group coverage by establishing small group plans as benchmark plans, that along with the individual market reforms would drive more people into individual coverage.

It hasn’t quite worked out that way. Even though the Affordable Care Act does not mandate they do so, small employers are continuing to offer group coverage, albeit less generous than the recent past and more akin to major medical, catastrophic plans with high deductibles. If they are offered coverage under them, employees have little incentive to enroll in individual coverage since they would not qualify for subsidized coverage sold on state health benefit exchanges.

That circumstance reduces the potential size of the individual segment and in so doing, degrades the individual market risk pool. While the Obama administration’s health insurance reforms are based on keeping employer-sponsored health benefits as the bedrock of coverage for most pre-retirement Americans, they also were aimed at revitalizing the struggling individual market. Given that employer-sponsored coverage cuts against a robust individual health insurance space, it may not be possible to have both.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Arkansas proposes overhauling Medicaid program to emphasize employer-sponsored coverage

Arkansas is asking the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to sign off on an overhaul of its Medicaid expansion program to make it into more of an employment expansion program based on employer-sponsored coverage rather than a traditional state insurance program for low income earners. The state is proposing federal Medicaid funding go toward defraying the cost of premiums for employees and also subsidizing small employer plans.

Source: 20160215 ArkWorks Summary_JM – 20160215_ArkWorks_Summary_share.pdf


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

One year after jettisoning single payer, Vermont now looks to control medical costs via expanded “all payer” ACO

One year after Vermont abandoned its plan to move to a single payer health finance framework amid concerns over the ability of tax revenues to cover rising medical utilization costs under that payment model, the state is rolling out an alternative aimed at reining in those costs. It would do so through a proposed “all payer model.” The model builds on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) model in which providers share risk with reimbursements tied to the overall cost and quality of care provided rather than discrete medical procedures under the traditional fee for service model. Reflecting the pervasiveness of costly, chronic health conditions no longer largely confined to the Medicaid eligible population, the Vermont proposal would expand that model to all forms of reimbursement, including Medicaid and commercial plans:

The State would agree to coordinate with Medicaid and commercial insurers, and in return the federal government would allow Medicare to participate in the ACO value-based payment model. As is true today, health care providers’ participation in ACOs is voluntary; the ACO must be attractive to providers and offer an alternative health care delivery model that is appealing enough to join.

The goal of the proposed all payer model is to limit the annual growth of statewide medical spending to 3.5 percent with a maximum spending growth of 4.3 percent:

The goal of this financial target is to bring health care spending closer to economic growth. When health care costs grow faster than Vermont’s economy, Vermont families find their premiums rising faster than wages. This is also true in the state’s Medicaid budget, which grows faster than the revenue sources used to fund it.

The board’s authority to regulate reimbursement rates exists under current state law, according to a term sheet outlining the proposal. Vermont will seek any necessary waivers from the federal government to operate the all payer model, noting the state has jointly developed a policy framework and the needed waivers in consultation with the federal Health and Human Services Department’s Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The fee for service reimbursement model is no longer suitable and is “antiquated” according to the Vermont proposal:

When the fee-for-service health care payment model was devised over 50 years ago, the average life expectancy of Americans was significantly shorter than it is today, and the burden of chronic disease was smaller. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that treating people with chronic diseases accounts for 86 percent of our nation’s health care costs. Health care reimbursement was designed to pay for acute medical conditions that required a single visit to the doctor or a single hospitalization. By contrast, persons with chronic conditions require regular, ongoing care across the continuum of traditional medical services and community-based services and supports. Fee-for-service reimbursement makes it difficult for innovative health care providers to adapt to the changing needs of the population that they serve. The antiquated system provides clear financial incentives to order additional tests and procedures, yet it does not reward doctors and other health care professionals for providing individualized and coordinated care for complex chronic conditions. In the end, patients may receive care that is expensive, fragmented, and disorganized.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Direct primary care finding potential market among employers, Medicaid managed care plans

Direct primary care is much less pricey. Patients pay $100 a month or less directly to the physician for comprehensive primary care, including basic medication, lab tests and follow-up visits in person, over email and by phone. The idea is that doctors can focus on treating patients, since they no longer have to wade through heaps of insurance paperwork. They spend less on overhead, driving costs down. And physicians say they can give care that’s more personal and convenient than in traditional practices.It’s legal under the Affordable Care Act, which identifies direct primary care as an acceptable option. But since it doesn’t cover specialists or emergencies, consumers still need a high-deductible health plan. Still, the combined cost of the monthly fee and that plan is often still cheaper than traditional insurance.

Source: Concierge Medical Care Comes To the Middle Class : Shots – Health News : NPR

This is an interesting trend that could at least in theory coincide with the shift back to the “major medical” model common in the 1950s and 1960s where people paid out of pocket for primary care, using health insurance for high cost, major medical care events.

But whether pre-paid primary care bundled with a high deductible plan ends up costing less than, say, a gold or platinum rated Obamacare individual plan designed for the frequent user of primary care (such as families with young children) looking to minimize out of pocket costs is an open question. Unless perhaps monthly cost of pre-paid medical care falls to $40 as discussed in this analysis, which sees that as unlikely to pencil out for direct primary care practices. And as a practical matter as suggested in the analysis, not many people visit primary care docs frequently enough to make the arrangement worthwhile.

Where direct primary care makes better sense financially and where it has gained traction is among employers who offer it as part of their health benefit package. These employer groups can bring more belly buttons to the table in negotiating rates with direct primary care providers. Even larger economies of scale can be had with Medicaid managed care plans, where direct primary care practices offer Medicaid beneficiaries who typically bounce among various providers and emergency rooms much needed medical homes. From the NPR article:

In Seattle, a company called Qliance, which operates a network of primary care doctors, has been testing how to blend direct primary care with the state’s Medicaid program. They started taking Medicaid patients in 2014. So far, about 15,000 have signed up. They get a Qliance doctor and the unlimited visits and virtual access that are hallmarks of the model.

“Medicaid patients are made to feel like they’re a burden on the system,” said Dr. Erika Bliss, Qliance’s CEO. “For them, it was a breath of fresh air to be able to get such personalized care – to be able to talk to doctors over phone and email.”

The article goes on to report that Qliance contracts with Medicaid managed care provider Centene. Other states including North Carolina, Idaho and Texas are keeping an eye on the Washington arrangement and considering similar programs, according to the article.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Medicaid managed care plans could be sold on state health benefit exchanges

With Medicaid enrollments strongly outpacing commercial individual plan enrollments in state health benefit exchanges, a number of factors are aligning to set the stage for policymakers to allow Medicaid managed care plans be offered on the exchanges alongside individual Qualified Health Plans (QHPs). They include:

  • A rulemaking issued in June by the federal Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services that would apply requirements similar to those for commercial individual and Medicare Advantage plans to Medicaid managed care plans, including allowing plan issuers to advertise products offered across the Medicaid and exchange markets (Click here for a summary of the proposed regulations posted at the Health Affairs blog);
  • The need to assure operational sustainability among state health benefit exchanges, particularly in states that have expanded Medicaid eligibility standards to households earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty levels and single childless adults. Beginning in 2015, federal establishment grant funding began drying up, leaving exchanges reliant on generating fees from participating plan issuers. Adding Medicaid managed care plans to commercial QHPs assessed exchange participation fees would bolster exchange revenues and reduce fiscal uncertainty;
  • The success of the Arkansas “private option” in expanding coverage under a federal Section 1115 waiver permitting adults that would have otherwise been eligible for expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act to purchase exchange QHPs;
  • Substantial and ongoing difficulties fully integrating exchange eligibility and enrollment IT platforms with legacy state Medicaid eligibility and enrollment systems to meet the Affordable Care Act’s mandate of a single application process for QHP and Medicaid eligibility determinations and enrollment;
  • Financial considerations in the distribution channel: insurance producers are wary of enrolling households eligible for Medicaid since they earn commissions only on commercial individual plans sold on and off the exchanges. The role of brokers and agents relative to Medicaid enrollments is currently under evaluation by California’s exchange, Covered California.

Sections 1301(a) and 1311(c) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act defining a QHP eligible for sale on the exchanges would appear to allow Medicaid managed care plans be deemed QHPs in the exchanges provided the plan issuer also offers individual plans on the exchange that also meet state requirements (The Affordable Care Act requires a minimum of one silver and one gold level plan be offered). Indeed, the QHP requirements set forth in Section 1311(c) have some overlap with those proposed for Medicaid managed care plans in the June CMS proposed rulemaking, including provisions requiring provider network adequacy standards, plan quality improvement programs and clinical care quality management.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Medicaid drove NY State of Health exchange enrollment to double in 2015 – Business – The Buffalo News

Enrollment in New York’s health insurance exchange more than doubled between 2014 and 2015, across the state and in Western New York, driven by soaring enrollment in Medicaid, the state Health Department reported Wednesday.

About 2.1 million New Yorkers were enrolled in coverage through the NY State of Health marketplace at the end of February, a sharp increase from the 961,000 enrolled at the end of the 2014 period, with 80 percent of them enrolled in Medicaid or Child Health Plus, according to the department’s first detailed breakdown of exchange enrollment through the end of the 2015 sign-up period. In the eight counties of Western New York, enrollment more than doubled from 55,844 to 117,330 between last year and this year.

Source: Medicaid drove NY State of Health exchange enrollment to double in 2015 – Business – The Buffalo News

This item comes as state health benefit exchange officials convene with their federal government partners this week in McLean, Virginia to discuss meeting the challenge of keeping the exchanges financially self sustaining. As I discussed in a recent post, states like New York that established their own exchanges and expanded Medicaid eligibility criteria are finding Medicaid enrollment far outpacing that of commercial qualified health plans (QHPs) offered on the exchanges. That’s a big financial sustainability issue for the exchanges since they obtain no ongoing income for Medicaid eligibility and enrollment processing but are required to perform that function under the Affordable Care Act’s “no wrong door” provision mandating a single integrated application process for both QHPs and Medicaid.

Now that the federal Department of Health and Human Services has issued a proposed rulemaking that would subject Medicaid managed care plans to regulatory requirements like those for commercial QHPs, I expect allowing health benefit exchanges to assess fees on Medicaid managed care plans will be one of the financial sustainability ideas discussed at the McLean meeting.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Growing Medicaid enrollment poses potential fiscal threat to state health benefit exchanges

The biggest threat to the future financial sustainability of the state health benefit exchange marketplace may be declining economic prosperity and the resulting polarization of household income strata, particularly in the states that have elected to expand Medicaid eligibility to households earning up to 138 percent of federal poverty and to single adults.

The reason? Low income households that qualify for Medicaid generally cannot purchase qualified health plans (QHPs) offered on state health benefit exchanges. If the growing Medicaid eligible population isn’t able to purchase QHPs, the exchanges don’t derive fees assessed on health plan issuers – their main source of revenue as federal establishment grant funds dwindle — that are based on a percentage of premium or set amount for each “effectuated” enrollee. (In states that have opted not to expand Medicaid eligibility, households earning at least 100 percent of federal poverty are eligible to purchase exchange QHPs.)

A Rand Corporation analysis of 2013-15 health coverage enrollment trends issued in June 2015 reported 6.5 million newly enrolled in Medicaid as of February 2015, outpacing by 58 percent the 4.1 million that enrolled in exchange QHPs. According to federal data, 71.1 million Americans were enrolled in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program as of April 2015, 12.3 million more than the average for July to September 2013.

While exchanges realize no revenue from Medicaid enrollments, they do incur expense in handling them. Under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act’s “no wrong door” policy, exchanges are required to process eligibility and enrollment for both state insurance programs like Medicaid as well as QHPs. It’s also easier to enroll in Medicaid coverage. Unlike exchange QHPs that limit enrollment to part of the year during open enrollment periods, those eligible for Medicaid can enroll at any time of the year.

In California, an expansion state with the nation’s largest Medicaid program serving 12.2 million or about 1 in 3 Californians, enrollment grew by 41.4 percent between December 2013 and January 2015, according to the state’s Medicaid administrator, the Department of Health Care Services. Before that, a severe economic downturn added about 1 million new eligibles to the Golden State’s Medicaid rolls between 2007 and 2010.

Enrollment in California’s Medicaid program – known as Medi-Cal – far outstrips that of QHPs sold through the state’s health benefit exchange, Covered California. According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, there were 1.4 million enrolled in Covered California plans as of February 2015 — about the same number for plan year 2014. To put that in perspective, there are roughly 61 Medi-Cal enrollees for every 7 enrolled in a Covered California QHP.

Colorado, a Medicaid expansion state that operates a state-based exchange, has seen burgeoning Medicaid enrollment tax the finances of its exchange. The state enrolled 1.2 million in Medicaid — an increase of 433,172 or 55 percent — between late 2013 and February 2015. For 2015, the state’s exchange, Connect for Health, enrolled 27,465 people in Medicaid or CHIP. That’s nearly twice the 15,566 enrolled in commercial plans, blowing a $7 million hole in its budget for increased call center costs handling complex Medicaid enrollments and prompting the exchange to seek reimbursement from the federal government, according to The Denver Post.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Exclusive: States quietly consider ObamaCare exchange mergers | TheHill

A number of states are quietly considering merging their healthcare exchanges under ObamaCare amid big questions about their cost and viability. Many of the 13 state-run ObamaCare exchanges are worried about how they’ll survive once federal dollars supporting them run dry next year. Others are contemplating creating multi-state exchanges as a contingency plan for a looming Supreme Court ruling expected next month that could prevent people from getting subsidies to buy ObamaCare on the federal exchange. The idea is still only in the infancy stage. It’s unclear whether a California-Oregon or New York-Connecticut health exchange is on the horizon.But a shared marketplace — an option buried in a little-known clause of the Affordable Care Act — has become an increasingly attractive option for states desperate to slash costs. If state exchanges are not financially self-sufficient by 2016, they will be forced to join the federal system, HealthCare.gov.

Source: Exclusive: States quietly consider ObamaCare exchange mergers | TheHill

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act provision referenced in this story is at Section 1311(f), which allows state exchanges to combine into “regional or other interstate exchanges,” subject to approval by the participating states and HHS. Another provision, Section 1333(a), would facilitate interstate exchanges by providing a mechanism for health plan issuers to pool risk and sell across state lines via “health care choice compacts” starting in January, 2016. Two or more states could enter into an agreement under which health plans could be offered in state individual markets, subject to regulation by the state in which the plan was written or issued, provided plans comply with the other states’ rules regarding market conduct, unfair trade practices, network adequacy, and consumer protection standards including standards relating to rating and handling of disputed claims.

While complex in and of itself, this might be easier to accomplish if state health benefit exchanges conducted eligibility and enrollment solely for commercial individual plans. A major complicating factor is Section 1413(c)(1) of the Affordable Care Act requiring each state to “develop for all applicable State health subsidy programs a secure, electronic interface allowing an exchange of data …that allows a determination of eligibility for all such programs based on a single application.”

This “no wrong door” policy requires the exchanges to screen households applying for coverage for income and household size eligibility criteria for both commercial Qualified Health Plans or QHPs) as well as state insurance programs such as Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). States have separate eligibility guidelines for these programs that won’t easily translate across state lines, especially considering a lack of uniformity among states on the Affordable Care Act’s expanded Medicaid eligibility. In addition, state operated exchanges as well as the federal marketplace have had difficulty integrating their IT systems to perform eligibility and enrollment functions fulfilling the Affordable Care Act’s “no wrong door” requirement.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

ER Visits Continue to Rise Since Implementation of Affordable Care Act – May 4, 2015

WASHINGTON, May 4, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Three-quarters of emergency physicians report that emergency visits are going up, according to a new poll.  This represents a significant increase from just one year ago when less than half reported increases.  Rather than trying to keep people out of emergency departments, policymakers need to recognize the value of this model of medicine that people want and clearly need, according to the American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP).

Most of the respondents to the poll report little or no reductions in the volume of emergency visits due to the availability of urgent care centers, retail clinics and telephone triage lines.  About 90 percent of more than 2,000 respondents also say the severity of illness or injury among emergency patients has either increased (44 percent) or remained the same (42 percent).

*  *  *

These data correlate with another new report issued by Health Policy Alternatives, which found that efforts by policymakers and health insurance plans to drive Medicaid patients out of emergency departments and into primary care are not working.  More than half of providers listed by Medicaid managed care plans could not offer appointments to enrollees, despite a provision in the ACA boosting pay to primary care physicians treating Medicaid patients.  The median wait times was 2 weeks but over one-quarter of providers had wait times of more than a month for an appointment.

“There is strong evidence that Medicaid access to primary care and specialty care is not timely, leaving Medicaid patients with few options other than the emergency department,” said Orlee Panitch, MD, FACEP, chair of EMAF and emergency physician for MEPHealth in Germantown, Maryland.

The report — commissioned by the Emergency Medicine Action Fund  (EMAF) — is titled “Review of the Evidence on the Use of the Emergency Department by Medicaid Patients and the Evolving Role of Emergency Medicine Physicians.”

Source: ER Visits Continue to Rise Since Implementation of Affordable Care Act – May 4, 2015

The increase in non emergent ED visits correlates with the experience in Massachusetts after that state expanded access to private and Medicaid coverage in 2006, serving as a template for the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that became law four years later. According to state data, emergency room visits rose by 9 percent from 2004 to 2008, to about 3 million visits a year. Both the ACA’s and Massachusetts’ reforms on the payor side postulated more access to coverage would translate to fewer people turning to the ER for non emergent care.

But Nancy Turnbull, a senior lecturer at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Boston Globe the increase in Massachusetts was due to lack of access to primary care — not coverage. “I don’t think the increase has anything to do with health care reform,’’ she said. “It’s much more reflective of [primary care] access problems.”

The ACEP poll notes Medicaid patients aren’t benefiting from the growth in channels providing convenient access to primary care such as retail clinics and telemedicine aimed at those covered under commercial insurance plans who want to consult with a provider outside usual office hours. Instead, it points to a population health basis, suggesting Medicaid patients are in poorer health and suffering from chronic conditions that flare up and require urgent attention that is most readily available at hospital EDs. The poll results also point up a need for community health clinics to play a larger role in serving Medicaid patients and in the management of their chronic conditions and helping improve their overall health status, particularly given that many private providers don’t accept Medicaid patients.

Separately, California Healthline reports ED visits by California Medicaid beneficiaries increased by 50 percent between 2013 and 2014 when that state’s Medicaid expansion took effect.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

Higher than expected Medicaid enrollment strains IT infrastructure, finances of Colorado health benefit exchange

Medicaid patients enrolling through the state health insurance exchange are taking too much of its resources, exchange board members said Monday, but state officials propose an even tighter partnership with a single technology vendor.

The federal policy of “no wrong door” was meant to be a single online portal for the uninsured that would seamlessly determine their eligibility for either Medicaid or private insurance with tax subsidies they purchased on the exchange.

But system and user errors have created problems for thousands of Colorado customers seeking financial assistance under the Affordable Care Act.

via Colorado health insurance exchange officials clash over Medicaid role – The Denver Post.


Need a speaker or webinar presenter on the Affordable Care Act and the outlook for health care reform? Contact Pilot Healthcare Strategies Principal Fred Pilot by email fpilot@pilothealthstrategies.com or call 530-295-1473. 

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