President Donald Trump signed an executive order Oct. 3 to improve private Medicare plans for seniors. The order, titled Protecting and Improving Medicare for our Nation’s Seniors, directs the Department of Health and Human Services to develop proposals to improve several aspects of Medicare, including expanding plan options for seniors, more telehealth, encouraging innovative plan designs and payment models, and improving the enrollment process to make it easier for seniors to choose plans.
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Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation and implement other administrative actions to enable the Medicare program to provide beneficiaries with more diverse and affordable plan choices.
Sec. 2. Policy. It is the policy of the United States to protect and improve the Medicare program by enhancing its fiscal sustainability through alternative payment methodologies that link payment to value, increase choice, and lower regulatory burdens imposed upon providers.
Sec. 3. Providing More Plan Choices to Seniors.
(a) Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation and implement other administrative actions to enable the Medicare program to provide beneficiaries with more diverse and affordable plan choices. The proposed actions shall:
(i) encourage innovative MA benefit structures and plan designs, including through changes in regulations and guidance that reduce barriers to obtaining Medicare Medical Savings Accounts and that promote innovations in supplemental benefits and telehealth services;
(ii) include a payment model that adjusts supplemental MA benefits to allow Medicare beneficiaries to share more directly in the savings from the program, including through cash or monetary rebates, thus creating more incentives to seek high-value care; and
(iii) ensure that, to the extent permitted by law, FFS Medicare is not advantaged or promoted over MA with respect to its administration.
(b) The Secretary, in consultation with the Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, shall submit to the President, through the Assistants to the President for Domestic and Economic Policy, a report within 180 days from the date of this order that identifies approaches to modify Medicare FFS payments to more closely reflect the prices paid for services in MA and the commercial insurance market, to encourage more robust price competition, and otherwise to inject market pricing into Medicare FFS reimbursement.
Sec. 4. Improving Access Through Network Adequacy.
Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation to provide beneficiaries with improved access to providers and plans by adjusting network adequacy requirements for MA plans to account for:
(a) the competitiveness of the health market in the States in which such plans operate, including whether those States maintain certificate-of-need laws or other anti-competitive restrictions on health access; and
(b) the enhanced access to health outcomes made possible through telehealth services or other innovative technologies.
Sec. 5. Enabling Providers to Spend More Time with Patients.
Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose reforms to the Medicare program to enable providers to spend more time with patients by:
(a) proposing a regulation that would eliminate burdensome regulatory billing requirements, conditions of participation, supervision requirements, benefit definitions, and all other licensure requirements of the Medicare program that are more stringent than applicable Federal or State laws require and that limit professionals from practicing at the top of their profession;
(b) proposing a regulation that would ensure appropriate reimbursement by Medicare for time spent with patients by both primary and specialist health providers practicing in all types of health professions; and
(c) conducting a comprehensive review of regulatory policies that create disparities in reimbursement between physicians and non-physician practitioners and proposing a regulation that would, to the extent allowed by law, ensure that items and services provided by clinicians, including physicians, physician assistants, and nurse practitioners, are appropriately reimbursed in accordance with the work performed rather than the clinician’s occupation.
Sec. 6. Encouraging Innovation for Patients.
Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose regulatory and sub-regulatory changes to the Medicare program to encourage innovation for patients by:
(a) streamlining the approval, coverage, and coding process so that innovative products are brought to market faster, and so that such products, including breakthrough medical devices and advances in telehealth services and similar technologies, are appropriately reimbursed and widely available, consistent with the principles of patient safety, market-based policies, and value for patients. This process shall include:
(i) adopting regulations and guidance that minimize and eliminate, as appropriate, the time and steps between approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and coverage decisions by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS);
(ii) clarifying the application of coverage standards, including the evidence standards CMS uses in applying its reasonable-and-necessary standard, the standards for deciding appeals of coverage decisions, and the prioritization and timeline for each National Coverage Determination process in light of changes made to local coverage determination processes; and
(iii) identifying challenges to the use of parallel FDA and CMS review and proposing changes to address those challenges; and
(b) modifying the Value-Based Insurance Design payment model to remove any disincentives for MA plans to cover items and services that make use of new technologies that are not covered by FFS Medicare when those items and services can save money and improve the quality of care.
Sec. 7. Rewarding Care Through Site Neutrality.
The Secretary shall ensure that Medicare payments and policies encourage competition and a diversity of sites for patients to access care.
Sec. 8. Empowering Patients, Caregivers, and Health Providers.
(a) Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose a regulation that would provide seniors with better quality care and cost data, improving their ability to make decisions about their healthcare that work best for them and to hold providers and plans accountable.
(b) Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall use Medicare claims data to give health providers additional information regarding practice patterns for services that may pose undue risks to patients, and to inform health providers about practice patterns that are outliers or that are outside recommended standards of care.
Sec. 9. Eliminating Waste, Fraud, and Abuse to Protect Beneficiaries and Taxpayers.
(a) The Secretary shall propose regulatory or sub-regulatory changes to the Medicare program, to take effect by January 1, 2021, and shall propose such changes annually thereafter, to combat fraud, waste, and abuse in the Medicare program. The Secretary shall undertake all appropriate efforts to direct public and private resources toward detecting and preventing fraud, waste, and abuse, including through the use of the latest technologies such as artificial intelligence.
(b) The Secretary shall study and, within 180 days of the date of this order, recommend approaches to transition toward true market-based pricing in the FFS Medicare program. The Secretary shall submit the results of this study to the President through the Assistants to the President for Domestic and Economic Policy. Approaches studied shall include:
(i) shared savings and competitive bidding in FFS Medicare;
(ii) use of MA-negotiated rates to set FFS Medicare rates; and
(iii) novel approaches to information development and sharing that may enable markets to lower cost and improve quality for FFS Medicare beneficiaries.
Sec. 10. Reducing Obstacles to Improved Patient Care.
Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall propose regulatory changes to the Medicare program to reduce the burden on providers and eliminate regulations that create inefficiencies or otherwise undermine patient outcomes.
Sec. 11. Maximizing Freedom for Medicare Patients and Providers.
(a) Within 180 days of the date of this order, the Secretary, in coordination with the Commissioner of Social Security, shall revise current rules or policies to preserve the Social Security retirement insurance benefits of seniors who choose not to receive benefits under Medicare Part A, and propose other administrative improvements to Medicare enrollment processes for beneficiaries.
(b) Within 1 year of the date of this order, the Secretary shall identify and remove unnecessary barriers to private contracts that allow Medicare beneficiaries to obtain the care of their choice and facilitate the development of market-driven prices.
The news comes as open enrollment nears for MA plans, which are projected to hit a 13-year low for premiums in 2020. About 24 million seniors, or a third of those eligible for Medicare, are expected to enroll in an MA plan in 2020.
Lisa Remington is president of the Remington Health Strategy Group and publisher of the Remington Report magazine and has worked with more than 6,000 organizations in both a consultancy role and educator. Lisa monitors the complex key trends and forces of change to develop a correct strategic approach to de-risk decision-making and create sustainable futures across the healthcare continuum.