The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has recently announced comprehensive changes to the Medicare Advantage program, mainly focusing on HCC codes, slated for implementation in 2024. The main changes will be seen in CMS HCC that will help revolutionise risk adjustment and reimbursement strategies. Before this, knowing about critical aspects of CMS risk adjustment is crucial.
Critical Aspects of CMS Risk Adjustment
CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) risk adjustment is a mechanism used to modify payments to health insurance plans based on the health status of their enrolled members. The goal is to compensate health plans for the expected medical costs of individuals with different health statuses, particularly those who are sicker or have more complex health conditions.
Here are the key aspects of CMS risk adjustment:-
CMS risk adjustment is primarily implemented to address the inherent differences in the health status of individuals enrolled in Medicare Advantage (Part C) and Affordable Care Act (ACA) exchange plans (Part D).
Health plans are paid a capitated amount per member per month by CMS. The payment is adjusted based on the health risk of each enrolled individual. Higher payments are made for members with more severe health conditions or multiple chronic illnesses.
Risk Adjustment Models
CMS uses risk adjustment models to calculate the risk scores of individual beneficiaries. These models consider various factors such as age, gender, and specific health conditions to predict the expected healthcare costs for each member. The risk scores are then used to adjust the payment rates for the health plans.
Hierarchical Condition Categories (HCCs)
CMS HCC risk adjustment is often organized using the Hierarchical Condition Categories (HCCs) system. HCCs group related diagnoses and conditions into categories, each assigned a specific weight based on the predicted impact on healthcare costs. The sum of these weights contributes to the overall risk score for an individual.
Evolution and Updates
CMS periodically updates and refines the risk adjustment models to improve accuracy and relevance, considering changes in healthcare delivery, medical advancements, and population health trends.
Crucial Role of Risk Adjustment in Revolutionizing Value-Based Care Organizations
Value-based care models aim to reward healthcare providers based on the quality and outcomes of care rather than the volume of services provided. Risk adjustment helps account for variations in patient health status and complexity, ensuring that providers are fairly reimbursed for the level of care they deliver. Without accurate risk adjustment, there is a risk of underpayment for organizations that serve sicker and more complex patient populations.
Risk adjustment enables organizations to identify high-risk patients who require more intensive and costly care management. By stratifying patients based on their health risk, providers can allocate resources more effectively, targeting interventions for those most need them. This patient-centric approach improves overall health outcomes and enhances the patient experience.
Accurate risk adjustment helps value-based care organizations maintain financial stability by appropriately estimating the cost of care for their patient population. Organizations that effectively manage their financial risk are better positioned to invest in care coordination, preventive measures, and other initiatives contributing to value-based care goals.
By adjusting for patient risk, healthcare providers are incentivized to improve health outcomes and deliver high-quality care. Risk adjustment prevents penalizing providers for serving patients with chronic conditions or complex medical histories, encouraging a more holistic and patient-centered approach to care.
Risk adjustment allows organizations to take on greater accountability for their patient population’s health outcomes. This accountability encourages innovation in care delivery, such as the adoption of telehealth, preventive care programs, and population health management strategies.
CMS HCC risk adjustment is a critical component of the broader strategy to ensure the financial stability of Medicare Advantage. The new changes brought in are expected to streamline the approach of risk adjustment and reimbursement strategies.