From the NAHC Newsroom

Public comments due January 5, 2024

CMS Policy Changes to Medicare C & D. On November 5, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued the Contract Year 2025 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program, Medicare Cost Plan Program, and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly; Health Information Technology Standards and Implementation Specifications.

Key provisions in the CMS policy changes that are of interest to home health and hospice providers are detailed below.CMS Policy Changes

Behavior Health

CMS aims to improve access to behavioral health care by adding certain behavioral health provider specialties to the MA network adequacy standards as a new facility-specialty type. The new facility-specialty type, ‘‘Outpatient Behavioral Health,’’ can include Marriage and Family Therapists (MFTs), Mental Health Counselors (MHCs), Opioid Treatment Program (OTP) providers, Community Mental Health Centers or other behavioral health and addiction medicine specialists and facilities.

Special Supplemental Benefits for the Chronically Ill (SSBCI)

CMS is proposing regulatory changes that would help ensure that SSBCI items and services offered are appropriate and improve or maintain the health or overall function of chronically ill enrollees. The MA organization must be able to demonstrate through relevant acceptable evidence that an item or service offered as SSBCI has a reasonable expectation of improving or to maintain the health or overall function of a chronically ill. The MA plan must follow its written policies based on objective criteria for determining an enrollee’s eligibility for an SSBCI when making such eligibility determinations. CMS is proposing to require that the MA plan document its denials of SSBCI eligibility rather than its approvals.

CMS will also modify and strengthen the current requirements for the SSBCI disclaimer that MA organizations offering SSBCI must use whenever SSBCI are mentioned. Additionally, CMS proposes to require MA plans to notify enrollees mid-year of the unused supplemental benefits available to them. The notice would list any supplemental benefits not utilized by the beneficiary during the first 6 months of the year.

Guardrails for Agent and Broker Compensation

CMS is proposing to generally prohibit contract terms between MA organizations and agents, brokers or other third party marketing organizations (TPMOs) that may interfere with the agent’s or broker’s ability to objectively assess and recommend the plan that best fits a beneficiary’s health care needs, CMS proposes to set a single compensation rate for all plans; revise the scope of items and services included within agent and broker compensation; and eliminate the regulatory framework which currently allows for separate payment to agents and brokers for administrative services. CMS also intends to make similar changes to the Part D agent broker compensation rules.

Health Equity and Utilization Management (UM)

CMS proposes to require that a member of the UM committee have expertise in health equity and that t the UM committee conduct an annual health equity analysis of the use of prior authorization. The analysis would examine the impact of prior authorization on enrollees with one or more of the following social risk factors (SRFs): receipt of the lowincome subsidy or being dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid (LIS/DE); or having a disability.

Right To Appeal an MA Plan’s Decision To Terminate Coverage for Non-Hospital Provider Services

Beneficiaries enrolled in Traditional Medicare and MA plans have the right to a fast-track appeal by an Independent Review Entity (IRE) when their covered skilled nursing facility (SNF), home health, or comprehensive outpatient rehabilitation facility (CORF) services are being terminated. Currently, Quality Improvement Organizations (QIO) act as the IRE and conduct these reviews. Under current regulations, MA enrollees do not have the same access to QIO review of a fast-track appeal as Traditional Medicare beneficiaries. CMS proposes to (1) require the QIO, instead of the MA plan, to review untimely fast-track appeals of an MA plan’s decision to terminate services in an HHA, CORF, or SNF; and (2) fully eliminate a provision that requires the forfeiture of an enrollee’s right to appeal a termination of services decision when they leave the facility. These proposals would bring MA regulations in line with the parallel reviews available to beneficiaries in Traditional Medicare and expand the rights of MA beneficiaries to access the fast-track appeals process.

  • Dual eligible Special Needs Plans (D-SNP)
  • CMS proposes to increase the percentage of dually eligible managed care enrollees who receive Medicare and Medicaid services from the same organization.
  • CMS is also proposing to limit out-of-network cost sharing for D–SNP preferred provider organizations (PPOs) for specific services.

Further, CMS is proposing to lower the D–SNP look-alike threshold from 80 percent to 70 percent for plan year 2025 and 60 percent for plan year 2026. This proposal would help address the continued proliferation of MA plans that are serving high percentages of dually eligible individuals without meeting the requirements to be a D–SNP.

The National Association for Home Care and Hospice will continue to analyze the proposed rule, but    supports CMS’ aim to protect Medicare beneficiaries by modifying policies and procedures that will improve programs under Part C and Part D.

Public comments are due January 5, 2024.

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