Medicare Posts Final Rule for 2024 Policy Changes to Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare Advantage Plans

Medicare has finalized its 2024 policies for the Medicare Advantage program. I’ll post a few excerpts, but it’s always best to read the rule in its entirety. The language of the rule clearly states that MA plans must comply with Medicare coverage policies including LCDs, and cannot add additional restrictions to those policies except in limited circumstances. One of those circumstances is when no Medicare policy exists, but in that event the MA plans may create “publicly accessible internal coverage criteria based on current evidence…” The rule goes into effect Jan 1, 2024.  Whether this will make MA less of a Medicare DIS-advantage is yet to be seen.

Medicare Program; Contract Year 2024 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage Program, Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program, Medicare Cost Plan Program, and Programs of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly

A Rule by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services on 04/12/2023

3. Utilization Management Requirements: Clarifications of Coverage Criteria for Basic Benefits and Use of Prior Authorization, Additional Continuity of Care Requirements, and Annual Review of Utilization Management Tools (§§ 422.101, 422.112, 422.137, 422.138, and 422.202)

First, we are finalizing that prior authorization policies for coordinated care plans may only be used to confirm the presence of diagnoses or other medical criteria and/or ensure that an item or service is medically necessary based on standards specified in this rule.

Second, we are finalizing that an approval granted through prior authorization processes must be valid for as long as medically necessary to avoid disruptions in care  . . . . .

Third, we are finalizing that MA plans must comply with national coverage determinations (NCD), local coverage determinations (LCD), and general coverage and benefit conditions included in Traditional Medicare laws. This includes criteria for determining whether an item or service is a benefit available under Traditional Medicare.

We are finalizing that when coverage criteria are not fully established in Medicare statute, regulation, NCD, or LCD, MA organizations may create publicly accessible internal coverage criteria that are based on current evidence in widely used treatment guidelines or clinical literature. We are also clarifying that coverage criteria are not fully established when additional, unspecified criteria are needed to interpret or supplement general provisions in order to determine medical necessity consistently; NCDs or LCDs include flexibility that explicitly allows for coverage in circumstances beyond the specific indications that are listed in an NCD or LCD, or there is an absence of any applicable Medicare statutes, regulations, NCDs or LCDs setting forth coverage criteria. When additional, unspecified criteria are needed to interpret or supplement general provisions, the MA organization must demonstrate that the additional criteria provide clinical benefits that are highly likely to outweigh any clinical harms, including from delayed or decreased access to items or services.

Finally…we are finalizing that all MA plans establish a Utilization Management Committee to review all utilization management, including prior authorization, policies annually and ensure they are consistent with the coverage requirements, including current, traditional Medicare’s national and local coverage decisions and guidelines. These changes will help ensure MA enrollees have consistent access to medically necessary care, without unreasonable barriers or interruptions.

Caroline Fife, MD

Dr. Fife is Co-Founder and Chief Medical Officer of Intellicure, Executive Director of the US Wound Registry, and Editor of Today’s Wound Clinic.

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