ACOs & The Importance of Risk Adjustment Coding in MSSP

CMS released its final Medicare Shared Savings Program rule, called “Pathways for Success” for ACOs. The new rule is designed to help establish a path toward risk.

CMS = Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services || MSSP = Medicare Shared Savings Program || ACO = Accountable Care Organization

 

MSSP lays out a clear transition to risk, and allows ACOs to start at different points, depending on where they are as an organization. Also, it extends the agreement period from 3 to 5 years, which provides more time to measure performance against the benchmark. This creates a Basic and Enhanced track option en route to risk. (See Image A below)

 

Image A Basic & Enhanced Tracks

Basic & Enhanced Tracks
Basic & Enhanced Tracks

 

There are several best practices an ACO can adopt to help succeed within the new model. Many ACOs are now looking toward Risk Adjustment which not only allows highlighting of high-risk patient populations, but will also provides a more accurate way of predicting cost and determining reimbursement.

 

The adoption of HCC risk adjustment best practices has been recognized by Medicare Advantage plans for several years. In contrast, ACOs who participate in Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) have opted away from any type of program, as they felt it had little effect on their benchmark. This is often due to an ACOs past experience within the MSSP.  However, the new changes open many doors to those who may have shied away from risk in the past, for reasons such as:

 

  • Benchmarks were based 100% on an ACO’s historical success.
  • No adjustments were made on the true risk score of the beneficiary, thus no penalty for similar low risk scores year over year.
  • False/inaccurate predictions of condition profiles of beneficiaries.
  • Re-enrolled beneficiaries given a demographic adjustment only, making it very difficult for an ACO to improve coding and increase benchmarks.

 

Given the new Pathways to Success Rule, ACO groups are being shown risk adjustment in a different light. There are no more restrictions on RAF changes for the historical beneficiary. Instead, there is a 3% limit on the total increase from historical to performance year.

 

ACOs continue to lag in adoption of HCC coding practices. From the most recent 2019 Shared Savings PUF file, 49% of groups have seen a drop in RAF from benchmark year 3 (BY3) to Performance Year (PY1). RAF scores on these groups dropped from 1.0149 within BY3 to .9819 in PY1 on average, showing a -3.25% drop (see below in Image B). As a result, ACOs could have faced a significant uphill battle over the next few performance years as they attempt to true up their future benchmarks. This is one significant issue addressed by MSSP.

 

Image B: RAF Decrease PUF file 2019 ACO MSSP

 

Coding improvements are capped at 3%, however, with this drop (shown above) from BY3 to PY1, RAF improvement can actually be significantly above the allowed 3% to offset the drop of -3.25%. Therefore, now is the time for ACOs to begin adopting HCC Risk Adjustment best practices to help in this effort. 

 

By adopting best practices within HCC coding, you can ensure that your medical group has the highest specificity of diagnoses, ensuring quality of care and compliance.

 

What exactly are these best practices that can be adopted?

 

  • Educating Providers
  • Making correct preparations prior to encounter
  • Documentation of all chronic conditions that are current
  • Ensuring a clean clinical workflow to display conditions for clinicians
  • Post-encounter review for quality assurance

 

As value-based care is being adopted on a wider scale, the old model of Fee for Service payment is slowly dwindling. More time is being spent with a patient to treat all chronic conditions at the encounter is becoming best practice.

 

One of the major issues that medical groups contend with is the ability to use all relevant data to create an aligned clinical workflow that helps the physician recapture, diagnose, and reject any conditions which are inaccurate. A melee of data is combined in the form of claims data, RX data, member eligibility, historical diagnosis, and utilization. The ability to organize this data into actionable insights, clinical suggestions, and quality opportunities is a huge task for any ACO. 

 

Here at DoctusTech, we can offer a solution to this issue…..

 

Click below to see how we solve for this at DoctusTech .

 

Need better RAF scores and recapture rates in your practice? Demo the DoctusTech integrated tools, and learn how to make your value-based care contracts more profitable. Schedule a demo today.

 

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