CMS examines inappropriate steering of people eligible for Medicare or Medicaid into Marketplace plans

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, August 18, 2016

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today issued a request for information seeking public comment on concerns that some health care providers and provider-affiliated organizations may be steering people eligible for, or receiving, Medicare and/or Medicaid benefits into Affordable Care Act-compliant individual market plans, including Health Insurance Marketplace plans, for the purpose of obtaining higher reimbursement rates. CMS also sent letters to all Medicare-enrolled dialysis facilities and centers informing them of this announcement.

The request for information and letters to providers focus on situations where patients may be steered away from Medicare or Medicaid benefits, which can among other concerns, result in beneficiaries experiencing a disruption in the continuity and coordination of their care as a result of changes to their network of providers.

In addition to asking for more information on instances of problematic steering of consumers to individual market plans, CMS is also considering potential regulatory and operational options to prohibit or limit premium payments and routine waiver of cost-sharing for qualified health plans by health care providers, revisions to Medicare and Medicaid provider enrollment rules, the imposition of civil monetary penalties for individuals that fail to provide correct information about consumers enrolling in a plan, and potential changes that would allow issuers to limit their payment to health care providers to Medicare-based amounts for particular services and items of care.

https://www.cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-releases/2016-Press-releases-items/2016-08-18-2.html

In a previous message we described how some dialysis centers were steering patients away from Medicare and Medicaid and into private plans which have much higher payment rates. CMS is now assessing this problem and considering various measures to address it.

CMS’s primary concern seems to be that they want to protect the private insurers from high cost patients, especially in light of the fact that the nation’s largest private insurers are withdrawing from the ACA exchanges because of their exposure to high needs patients. The punitive interventions they suggest are aimed at the providers rather than the insurers. Particularly noteworthy is the recommendation to allow private insurers to reduce their provider payments down to Medicare rates.

If CMS established the principle that they can have recourse to price controls for privately insured patients, then why should we have to continue to pay the private plans extra for their superfluous administrative excesses and investor returns?  For that matter, why should we continue with an inefficient, fragmented health care financing system wherein our public administrators are bending over backwards to cater to the private insurers at an extra cost to those of us paying the bills?

In these thousands of daily messages on the heaps of rotten policies in health care financing it seems like there must be a pony in here somewhere. Single payer, perhaps?