Saturday, December 16, 2017

OCMA Blog

Blue Shield makes positive changes to reimbursement policy for physicians treating out-of-network exchange PPO patients

Blue Shield of California recently announced a two-part reimbursement policy change for contracted providers that do not currently participate in the plan's Individual and Family Plan (IFP) PPO product, otherwise known as its exchange/mirror PPO product.
 
Effective with September 14, 2014 dates of services, Blue Shield will implement changes to the out-of-network claims payment process and will now reimburse providers directly when PPO exchange/mirror product patients are seen out of network. Previously, Blue Shield issued payment directly to the patient. The notice also states that out-of-network physicians may continue bill patients for the balance of billed charges.
 
Additionally, for Blue Shield contracted providers who see Blue Shield PPO exchange/mirror patients out of network, the plan will process payment based on the provider's PPO contracted amount. Please note out-of-network benefit rules will still be applied, meaning the patient will still have the same out-of-network cost sharing. Previously, Blue Shield processed out-of-network PPO claims based on the reimbursement rate for its IFP product, which is typically discounted from the PPO rate.
 
The policy change does not affect services provided to patients with a Blue Shield IFP EPO plan, as there are no out-of-network benefits with an EPO product.
 
Blue Shield reports the policy change is in response to provider feedback of difficulties collecting from exchange/mirror patients they have seen out-of-network. The policy change also brings its physician payment rules in line with Blue Shield's facility payment policy for PPO exchange/mirror patients who are seen out of network.
 
CMA believes the policy change will be positive for physicians and commends Blue Shield for their responsiveness to provider concerns.
 
To view the Blue Shield notice, click here.
 
Physicians with questions about the policy can contact Blue Shield Provider Information & Enrollment at (800) 258-3091. OCMA members can contact Mitzi Young, OCMA Physician Advocate at (888) 236-0267 or myoung@cmanet.org

Covered California Provider Education News: Know Your Participation Status

Covered California: Know Your Participation Status

In late April 2014, the California Medical Association (CMA) surveyed physicians about their contracting experience with Covered California plans. Eighty percent of respondents reported that they had been confused about their participation status in a Covered California plan and that they believed such confusion had negatively impacted patient care.

Unfortunately, checking your practice's participation status is not as straightforward as it might seem. Plagued with inaccuracies, Covered California took down its cross-plan provider directory earlier this year. Add to that the fact that some exchange plans have used vague contract terms and amendments that rope physicians into participating in their exchange networks, often without their express consent or knowledge, and you'll see that "do you take my insurance" is not always an easy question to answer. 

CMA has developed a toolkit to assist physicians with checking their participation status within Covered California. Click here to download the Know Your Status toolkit.

Meet your Covered CA Provider Educator, Karli Nevarez

Karli is available to provide and distribute multilingual patient education materials for your practice or medical group, as well as appear in person to facilitate a brief presentation or answer questions for your staff. These presentations are for physicians and their staff to gain a better understanding of Covered California and the products offered through the exchange. Karli's services are available to both members and non-members of OCMA.

If you would like Karli to come to your practice or medical group to deliver materials and/or present to your staff, you may contact her at: (310) 818-6998 or knevarez@thecmafoundation.org.  
 
You can also fill out the Covered CA Information Request Form and fax or email the form back to the OCMA. 


Physician Advocate Tip of the Month: Be aware of the off-exchange products that utilize Covered CA plan networks

April Tip:

Be aware of the off-exchange products that utilize Covered CA plan networks.

1. Every plan offered in Covered CA must also be offered outside of Covered CA, using the same network.  If you see these product names on the ID card, it indicates the patient only has access to the Covered CA network. For more information, download "Surviving the Second Month of Covered CA" at www.cmanet.org/ces.

2. To physicians who are currently participating in the Anthem Blue Cross Individual / Covered CA network: Anthem Blue Cross recently notified over 11,000 practices of a contract addendum that will become effective July 1, 2014. For more information, click here.

Receiving practice management guidance from Mitzi Young is a FREE OCMA member benefit!
Contact Mitzi to schedule a one-on-one consultation to discuss your practice management needs: 
 
Mitzi Young
Physician Advocate, CMA Center for Economic Services
888.236.0267
myoung@cmanet.org


CMA launches Covered California Provider Education Program

The California Medical Association (CMA) and the CMA Foundation have been awarded a $1.5 million grant from Covered California, the state's new health benefit exchange. The grant application was submitted in partnership with the Latino Physicians of California, the American Academy of Pediatrics and a number of CMA's component medical societies.
 
The grant is being used to establish the CMA's "California Health Benefit Exchange Outreach and Education Program." The goal is to help medical professionals across the state and their health care teams to educate their patients about the new coverage options available through Covered California and the financial assistance available to help pay for them. The program will focus more intensive outreach to physicians working in communities with a large number of consumers eligible for Covered California.
 
Physicians are powerful and effective messengers to deliver information to patients. We will be working to educate not only physicians, but also the office and health care teams that support physician practices. We will work with registered nurses, medical assistants, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, office managers and other physician practice staff in the targeted geographic areas that have the highest number of newly eligible exchange enrollees. All staff working in a practice or clinic will have an opportunity to learn more about Covered California insurance plans to fully utilize their skills and potential in educating patients about exchange eligibility and enrollment.

Regional Outreach

The California Health Benefit Exchange Outreach and Education Program will have four regional Provider Educators, with one assigned to each of the following regions: 1) Fresno, Kern, Tulare and Kings Counties; 2) San Diego, Riverside and San Bernardino Counties; 3) Los Angeles and Orange Counties; and 4) San Joaquin, Santa Clara, Alameda and Contra Costa Counties. For those practices in regions not listed, CMA Foundation staff will provide outreach and education. 

Educational Strategy

The educational strategy will be a multifaceted approach that factors in the different physician practice environments and incorporates multiple strategies to communicate with the physicians and their health care teams. The approach will incorporate group learning sessions, focus groups, educational print medium and one-on-one "touches" supported by newsletters, webinars and e-communication.
 
We will develop learning communities of grantees, sub-grantees and other interested partners to share challenges and best practices and to help us use resources as effectively as possible.
 
Our strategy will also include the following: 

  • Identify the gaps in physician knowledge about the exchange and design educational messaging to address those gaps.
  • Create a master list of existing regularly held meetings of the association members and partners so that we can utilize the already built network and standing meeting schedule
  • Establish lesson plans to ensure consistency in presentations.
  • Identify physician champions to be trained to educate their peers and other health care professionals and staff.
  • Establish a Physician/Health Care Worker Subcommittee to provide message testing, guidance and input on presentations and one-on-one education.
  • Make resources available through the physician practice to patients, helping them understand Covered California.
  • Develop a physician toolkit comprised of essential outreach materials for physician champions and their health care teams to give to patients.
  • Work with hospitals and health plans to book training and education sessions in hospital grand rounds, regularly scheduled patient-support focused meetings and medical staff meetings.

Resources

For the full Covered California Grant Newsletter, click here.

For a list of Health Benefit Exchange resources available to physicians, click here.

All resources are available on the CMA website at  http://www.cmanet.org/issues-and-advocacy/cmas-top-issues/aca/.

OCMA members may contact Physician Advocate Mitzi Young with questions about Covered California and the Health Benefits Exchange at (888) 236-0267 or myoung@cmanet.org

ALERT: You May have Automatically been Contracted into an Exchange Plan

Open enrollment began October 1st for Covered California (California's Health Benefits Exchange). The OCMA has received many calls from members confused as to whether they are contracted to see these patients. 
  

Many doctors were automatically put into contracts, and are unaware that they are on the plan directory for exchange plans with payers. These physicians have to opt out of that part of their contract if they do not wish to participate in the Exchange. The easiest way to confirm your participation is by calling the provider relationship department of the three plans in Orange County who are contracted to see Exchange patients.  

  • Anthem Blue Cross:  (855) 238-0095
  • Blue Shield Of California:  (800) 258-3091
  • HealthNet:  (800) 641-7761

For additional questions about Covered California or any practice management issue, OCMA / CMA members may call OCMA Physician Advocate Mitzi Young directly at (888) 236-0267 or myoung@cmanet.org.


Notice: Due October 1: Employee Notices - Health Insurance Exchange

One of the provisions of the ACA requires employers to provide their employees notice of the new state health insurance exchange (Covered California). Regardless of whether or not your practice offers employees health insurance, employers subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) are required to provide notification of purchasing options and subsidies available through the Covered California health exchange by October 1, 2013 (model notices are available at www.marshhealthoptions.com).  Generally employers with one or more employees who generate sales of $500,000 or more annually are required to provide the notice. There is one notice for employers who provide their employees with health insurance and one notice for employers who do not provide health insurance to their employees. Since the FLSA applies broadly, most employers are subject to the requirement. 

A Department of Labor online compliance tool: http://www.dol.gov/elaws/esa/flsa/scope/screen24.asp can help employers determine whether they are covered by the law. 

Health Reform Heats Up

By James Noonan, CMA Staff Writer

More than three years have passed since the Affordable Care Act (ACA) was into law, setting into motion some of the most dynamic and volatile years the nation’s health care industry has ever seen.

Since its inception, the law has been a subject of controversy, inspiring hotly contested debates in Washington, D.C., Sacramento and across the entire nation. For some, this dramatic overhaul of the nation’s health care system represents our national leaders finally making good on the long-overdue promise of “health care for all.” Others claim that the law is a clear overreach of federal authority that threatens to overburden an already fragile economy.

Although the law remains controversial, the United States Supreme Court has ruled that the law is constitutional and active steps are being taken to move forward at the federal and state level.

Despite being signed into law more than three years ago, the vast majority of activity has yet to come. With many of the provisions set to take effect on January 1, 2014, state officials across the nation are scrambling to make sure they’re ready to implement the law’s sweeping changes.

The road has already been a somewhat rocky one.

Throughout the implementation process, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has been narrowly meeting its own deadlines, often times leaving states waiting for federal guidance that could dramatically alter their own implementation plans. With several major deadlines coming in the next few months, many observers expect this problem to only get worse.

Adding to the headache for the federal government is the fact that the ACA has received mixed support from the states, which has complicated implementation efforts nationwide. As of early February, only 19 states had elected to develop their own state-run “exchange,” an online marketplace where consumers can purchase subsidized coverage. An additional five states will form state-federal partnerships to operate their marketplaces, while the remaining states have declined to participate, meaning the federal government will be responsible for operating exchanges in those areas.

Despite these problems, the march toward reform continues on.

The Next Major Milestone

The next major milestone toward full implementation is set to take place on October 1, 2013, when state exchanges are set to begin their pre-enrollment. In the first years following these marketplaces going live, more than 32 million currently uninsured Americans are expected to gain coverage, either through an exchange plan or the ACA’s massive expansion of the Medicaid program. Some analysts expect as many as 5 million of these newly insured to come from California.

Three months after the pre-enrollment begins, January 1, 2014, exchanges are set to go live, meaning that millions of Americans will, for the first time, be able to purchase coverage using the federal subsidies promised in the ACA.

In order to navigate this massive undertaking, states will need to decide which plans will be offered through their exchanges, construct the actual online marketplaces through which consumers will purchase coverage and implement major public outreach campaigns to ensure that these citizens – many of whom have never had the benefit of “open enrollment” or a similar purchasing period – understand how and where they can sign up for coverage under the reform law.

The task is daunting on its own, but with a deadline looming only months out, skeptics would be forgiven for questioning whether such a task is even possible.

California Leads the Way

Despite the uncertainty swirling around the ACA’s implementation, California looks to be on track to meet the coming deadlines.

In the days following the ACA’s passage, California was the first state to establish a health benefit exchange (Utah and Massachusetts were operating their own versions of an exchange before the ACA was signed into law) and has been working toward implementation ever since. That exchange, recently named Covered California, has already launched its online consumer marketplace, www.coveredca.com, and is one of 25 states that have gained conditional approval from the federal government to operate its own insurance marketplace.

There is, however, still much work to be done at the state level.

Unlike most other states, California opted to adopt an “active purchaser” model when building its new exchange, meaning Covered California’s Board of Directors will be responsible for selecting which insurance providers will be allowed to offer products on the exchanges. The selected products, known as qualified health plans (QHPs), will be required to meet a set of benefit standards finalized by the Covered California board late last year. The QHPs will be selected through a competitive bidding process set to begin in the coming months, and it’s anticipated that somewhere between three to five QHPs will be selected for each one of California’s 19 geographical rating regions.

While the selection process is still far from over, it looks as though the Covered California board will not be short on options when it comes time to award the QHP designation. In October, more than 30 distinct insurance providers issued a “notice of intent to bid” to the board, and most of the state’s major insurance providers have since gone public with their intent to participate in California’s exchange.

The fact that insurance companies appear more than willing to play ball with the exchange, and that Covered California was established as an independent government entity operating outside the control of the Legislature and governor, means that the exchange’s Board of Directors has a considerable amount of power when it comes to shaping California’s post reform heath care landscape.

Protecting Physician Interests

Unfortunately several recent decisions by the exchange board have placed California’s physician community on its heels. The California Medical Association (CMA) has been an active participant in stakeholder hearings and is working to ensure that the interests of physicians and their patients are taken into consideration as the exchange prepares to open for business.

Several of issues of concern arose when the board was working to finalize the benefit standards that interested payors will be required to meet in order to have their products considered for the QHP designation. One major concern for physicians is how the exchange plans to deal with monitoring and ensuring network adequacy among of QHPs.

Throughout the benefit design conversation, exchange staff continued to favor the existing method of network monitoring, which calls for the Department of Managed Health Care (DMHC) and Department of Insurance (DOI) to be responsible for ensuring that plans offered to consumers have enough participating providers. In other words, the status quo. Several stakeholders, including CMA, have noted that those two entities are currently unable to ensure adequate networks among existing plans and would likely be overwhelmed by the added task of monitoring additional exchange products. While CMA asked that the exchange take an active role in monitoring networks beginning in 2014, the DMHC/DOI method remained in the final benefit standards adopted by Covered California’s Board of Directors in August, meaning it could become the norm once the state’s marketplace goes live.

CMA also voiced concern over the exchange’s handling of the “grace period” provision included in the ACA. Under current California law, patients who are delinquent on their premiums are allowed a full 90 days to settle up before their policy is terminated for nonpayment. However, under the ACA’s grace period provisions, exchange plans will be allowed to suspend payment for services rendered if an enrollee is more than one month delinquent. If the patient fails to settle up within the three-month grace period, the plan can then terminate coverage for nonpayment and deny all pending claims for services. In this scenario, physicians could potentially be on the hook for 60 days worth of services with no avenue for recourse.

CMA has repeatedly asked Covered California’s board to reconcile the state and federal policies, but to date an adequate fix has not been presented.

Given the exchange’s accelerated timeline, as well as the exchange board’s tendency to revisit issues that were previously thought to be decided, it remains possible that both of these matters, along with others that have caused concern to physicians, could see some sort of resolution before 2014.

Action Under the Dome

With all of the moving pieces present between the federal government and California’s exchange board, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the state Legislature is also playing a large role in ACA implementation, so large, in fact, that Gov. Jerry Brown saw fit to call for a special session dedicated to health care reform in California.

A total of six bills (three identical proposals being heard in both houses of the Legislature) were introduced during the special session, seeking to address individual market reforms (ABX1-1 and SBX1-1), Medi-Cal expansion (ABX1-2 and SBX1-3) and a proposal to establish a “bridge plan” (ABX1-2 and SBX1-3) that would allow for a seamless transition between Medi-Cal and exchange plans for those individuals whose income may fluctuate past the income thresholds called for in the ACA.

Special sessions usually are reserved for a dire situation in need of immediate legislative action, which makes it somewhat surprising that members of the Legislature allowed the spring recess – their “soft deadline” for special session legislation – to come and go without any major action on these bills. As of early April, the individual market reform and Medi-Cal expansion bills had cleared their houses of origin and were set to be heard in committees within the second house, while the bridge plan proposal had yet to be heard on the floor of either house.

There’s also a considerable amount of activity related to health reform taking place outside of the special session, specifically regarding scope of practice expansions as a way of addressing the access to care issues that will inevitably take place when millions of currently uninsured Californians gain coverage beginning in 2014. Three bills, all authored by Sen. Ed Hernandez (D-West Covina), seek to expand the respective scope of practice for pharmacists, optometrists and nurse practitioners, while a fourth, authored by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) would call for a similar expansion for physicians assistants.

The ACA had two major goals: First, to expand access to health coverage to all, and second, to ensure efficient, high quality care. Those who are now invoking the ACA as the sole justification for allowing non-physicians to diagnose and treat California patients and perform complex medical procedures are attempting to achieve the first goal by undermining the second. Allowing non-physicians to practice beyond their training can only lead to inferior outcomes, higher costs and greater fragmentation of care.

CMA will be closely following and fighting these scope bills, working to ensure that California meets the ACA's objectives without eroding quality or jeopardizing patient safety.

To be sure, the next few months will be some of the most important and tumultuous times the medical community has faced in recent memory, but as a CMA member you have the comfort of knowing that your interests are being advocated for in front of all the key players driving the nation’s reform efforts.


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