1. Modifying the Agent/Broker Requirements, Specifically Agent/Broker Compensation
The former regulatory compensation structure was comprised of a 6-year cycle that ended December 31, 2013. Under that structure, MA organizations and Part D sponsors provided an initial compensation payment to independent agents for new enrollees (Year 1), and paid a renewal rate (equal to 50 percent of the initial year compensation) for Years 2 through 6. MA organizations and Part D sponsors had the option to pay the 50 percent renewal rate for CY2014 (year 1). This compensation structure proved to be complicated to implement and monitor, and also created an incentive for agents to move beneficiaries as long as the fair market value (FMV) continued to increase each year. To resolve these issues, we proposed to revise the compensation structure. Under our proposal, MA organizations and Part D sponsors would continue to have the discretion to decide, on an annual basis, whether or not to use independent agents. Also, for new enrollments, MA organizations and Part D sponsors could determine what their initial rate would be, up to the CMS designated FMV amount. For renewals in Year 2 and subsequent years, with no end date, the MA organization or Part D sponsor could pay up to 35 percent of the current FMV amount for that year. We believed that revising the existing compensationstructure to allow MA organizations or Part D sponsors to pay up to 35 percent of the FMV for year 2 and subsequent years was appropriate based on a couple of factors. First, we believed that a 2 tiered payment system (that is, initial and renewal) would be significantly less complicated than a 3-tiered system (that is, initial, 50 percent renewal for years 2 through 6, and 25 percent residual for years 7 and subsequent years), and would reduce administrative burden and confusion for plan sponsors. Second, our analysis determined that 35 percent was the renewal compensation level at which the present value of overall payments under a 2-tiered system would be relatively equal to the present value of overall payments under a 3-tiered system (taking into account the estimated life expectancy for several beneficiary age cohorts). In addition to revising the agent and broker compensation structures, we proposed to amend the training and testing requirements as well as setting limits on referral fees ($100) for agents and brokers.
We received more than 140 comments from agents, health plans, and trade associations opposing the 35 percent renewal rate, and instead suggesting that CMS maintain the 50 percent renewal rate. A number of commenters expressed concerns that the proposed reduction in compensation would represent a significant decrease from the current compensation limit, and a rate set at 50 percent of FMV would be in line with industry standard. They noted that the higher compensation amount would be particularly important for stand-alone prescription drug plans, as 35 percent would be insufficient to cover an agent's costs associated with the renewal transaction and could discourage agents from assisting in the annual evaluation of a Medicare beneficiary's options. Commenters also stated that, compared to current practice, the proposed 35 percent renewal rate is a reduction since a number of MA plans began offering a renewal rate of 50 percent for 10 years or more at the end of the 6-year cycle (2013). The majority of commenters also stated that agents play an important role in educating beneficiaries about Medicare and the proposed reduction in the renewal rate could reduce the level and quality of services provided to beneficiaries, thereby resulting in less information sharing and poorer plan choices by beneficiaries. Many commenters also stated that agents spend a significant amount of time in training, preparing, and educating beneficiaries and that the compensation is already low relative to the hours spent. Some commenters also expressed concern that the lower compensation rate would discourage new agents from entering the MA market. Many agents stated they would have to stop selling MA products and instead sell other more profitable products. No plans strongly supported the 35 percent renewal rate. Therefore, we are modifying the compensation renewal rate from up to 35 percent to up to 50 percent. These changes will be applicable for enrollments effective January 2015. Because the proposed rate is similar to previous regulatory requirements, present CMS guidance, and industry practice, we believe this implementation timeframe is reasonable and appropriate. We are not finalizing the proposed changes to agent and broker training and testing at this time. We are finalizing limits on referral fees for agents as proposed.
2. Drug Categories or Classes of Clinical Concern
We are not finalizing any new criteria and will maintain the existing six protected classes.
3. Improving Payment Accuracy—Implementing Overpayment Provisions of Section 1128J(d) of the Social Security Act (§§ 422.326 and 423.360)
These proposed regulatory provisions codify the Affordable Care Act requirement establishing section 1128J(d) of the Act that MA organizations and Part D sponsors report and return identified Medicare overpayments.
We proposed to adopt the statutory definition of overpayment for both Part C and Part D, which means any funds that an MA organization or Part D sponsor has received or retained under Title XVIII of the Act to which the MA organization or Part D sponsor, after applicable reconciliation, is not entitled under such title. To reflect the unique structure of Part C and Part D payments to plan sponsors, we also propose to define two terms included in the statutory definition of overpayments: “funds” and “applicable reconciliation.” We proposed to define funds as payments an MA organization or Part D sponsor has received that are based on data that these organizations submitted to CMS for payment purposes. For Part C we proposed that applicable reconciliation occurs on the annual final risk adjustment data submission deadline. For Part D, we proposed that applicable reconciliation occurs on the date that is the later of either the annual deadline for submitting prescription drug event (PDE) data for the annual Part D payment reconciliations referred to in § 423.343(c) and (d) or the annual deadline for submitting DIR data.
In addition, we proposed to state in regulation that an MA organization or Part D sponsor has identified an overpayment if it has actual knowledge of the existence of the overpayment or acts in reckless disregard or deliberate ignorance of the existence of the overpayment. An MA organization or Part D sponsor must report and return any identified overpayment it received no later than 60 days after the date on which it identified it received an overpayment. The MA organization or Part D sponsor must notify CMS, using a notification process determined by CMS, of the amount and reason for the overpayment. Finally, we proposed a look-back period with an exception for overpayments resulting from fraud, whereby MA organizations and Part D sponsors would be held accountable for reporting overpayments within the 6 most recent completed payment years for which the applicable reconciliation has been completed.
We received approximately 30 comments from organizations and individuals. Generally, commenters supported establishing separate applicable reconciliation dates for Part C and Part D. Many commenters questioned when the 60-day period for reporting and returning begins, and what activities constitute reporting and returning an overpayment to CMS, including questions about estimating an amount of overpayment. A number of commenters also requested to clarify the standards for “identifying” an overpayment, including questions about the meaning of reasonable diligence. Finally, a few commenters recommended that we impose the same limitation on the look-back period for all overpayments, even those relating to fraud.
We are finalizing the provisions at §§ 422.326 and 423.360, with the following modifications. First, we add at the end of paragraph § 422.326(d) the phrase “unless otherwise directed by CMS for the purpose of § 422.311.” Also, to increase clarity we revise §§ 422.326(c) and 423.360(c) regarding identified overpayments. Finally, we strike the following sentence in the proposed paragraphs on the 6-year look-back period: “Overpayments resulting from fraud are not subject to this limitation of the lookback period.”
4. Risk Adjustment Data Requirements
We proposed several amendments to § 422.310 to strengthen existing regulations related to the accuracy ofrisk adjustment data, including: (1) A requirement that medical record reviews, if used, be designed to determine the accuracy of diagnoses submitted under §§ 422.308(c)(1) and 422.310(g)(2); (2) a revision in the deadlines for submission of risk adjustment data; and (3) a limitation on the type and purpose of late data submissions. We also proposed a restructuring of subparagraph (g)(2) as part of the revisions. We received approximately 25 comments from organizations and individuals regarding these proposals; many of the comments were concerned and critical of the proposals, highlighting vagueness and the potential for operational instability. For reasons discussed in more detail below in section III.B.2 of the preamble, we are not finalizing the proposed amendment regarding the scope of medical reviews and we are not finalizing at this time the proposal to change the date for final risk adjustment data submission. We are finalizing as proposed the restructuring of §§ 422.310(g)(2) and the 422.310(g)(2)(ii) provision to prohibit submission of diagnoses for additional payment after the final risk adjustment data submission deadline.
Modifying the agent/broker requirements, specifically agent/broker compensation
Improving Payment Accuracy
Eligibility of Enrollment for Incarcerated Individuals
We estimate that this change could save the MA program up to $27 million in 2015, increasing to $103 million in 2024 (total of $650 million over this period), and could save the Part D program (includes the Part D portion of MA PD plans) up to $46 million in 2015, increasing to $153 million in 2024 (total of $965 million over this period).
The Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) (Pub. L. 105-33) created a new “Part C” in the Medicare statute (sections 1851 through 1859 of the Social Security Act (the Act)) which established what is now known as the Medicare Advantage (MA) program. The Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act of 2003 (MMA) (Pub. L. 108-173), enacted on December 8, 2003, added a new “Part D” to the Medicare statute (sections 1860D-1 through 42 of the Act) entitled the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Program (PDP), and made significant changes to the existing Part C program, which it named the Medicare Advantage (MA) Program. The MMA directed that important aspects of the Part D program be similar to, and coordinated with, regulations for the MA program. Generally, the provisions enacted in the MMA took effect January 1, 2006. The final rules implementing the MMA for the MA and Part D prescription drug programs appeared in the Federal Register on January 28, 2005 (70 FR 4588 through 4741 and 70 FR 4194 through 4585, respectively).
Since the inception of both Parts C and D, we have periodically revised our regulations either to implement statutory directives or to incorporate knowledge obtained through experience with both programs. For instance, in the September 18, 2008 and January 12, 2009 Federal Register (73 FR 54226 and 74 FR 1494, respectively), we issued Part C and D regulations to implement provisions in the Medicare Improvement for Patients and Providers Act (MIPPA) (Pub. L. 110-275). We promulgated a separate interim final rule in January 16, 2009 (74 FR 2881) to address MIPPA provisions related to Part D plan formularies. In the final rule that appeared in the April 15, 2010 Federal Register (75 FR 19678), we made changes to the Part C and D regulations which strengthened various program participation and exit requirements; strengthened beneficiary protections; ensured that plan offerings to beneficiaries included meaningful differences; improved plan payment rules and processes; improved data collection for oversight and quality assessment; implemented new policies; and clarified existing program policy.
In a final rule that appeared in the April 15, 2011 Federal Register (76 FR 21432), we continued our process of implementing improvements in policy consistent with those included in the April 2010 final rule, and also implemented changes to the Part C and Part D programs made by recent legislative changes. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub. L. 111-148) was enacted on March 23, 2010, as passed by the Senate on December 24, 2009, and the House on March 21, 2010. The Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (Pub. L. 111-152), which was enacted on March 30, 2010, modified a number of Medicare provisions in Pub. L. 111-148 and added several new provisions. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Pub. L. 111-148) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (Pub. L. 111-152) are collectively referred to as the Affordable Care Act. The Affordable Care Act included significant reforms to both the private health insurance industry and the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Provisions in the Affordable Care Act concerning the Part C and D programs largely focused on beneficiary protections, MA payments, and simplification of MA and Part D program processes. These provisions affected implementation of our policies regarding beneficiary cost-sharing, assessing bids for meaningful differences, and ensuring that cost-sharing structures in a plan are transparent to beneficiaries and not excessive. In the April 2011 final rule, we revised regulations on a variety of issues based on the Affordable Care Act and our experience in administering the MA and Part D programs. The rule covered areas such as marketing, including agent/broker training; payments to MA organizations based on quality ratings; standards for determining if organizations are fiscally sound; low income subsidy policy under the Part D program; payment rules for non-contract health care providers; extending current network adequacy standards to Medicare medical savings account (MSA) plans that employ a network of providers; establishing limits on out-of-pocket expenses for MA enrollees; and several revisions to the special needs plan requirements, including changes concerning SNP approvals.
In a final rule that appeared in the April 12, 2012 Federal Register (77 FR 22072 through 22175), we made several changes to the Part C and Part Dprograms required by statute, including the Affordable Care Act, as well as made improvements to both programs through modifications reflecting experience we have obtained administering the Part C and Part D programs. Key provisions of that final rule implemented changes closing the Part D coverage gap, or “donut hole,” for Medicare beneficiaries who do not already receive low-income subsidies from us by establishing the Medicare Coverage Gap Discount Program. We also included provisions providing new benefit flexibility for fully-integrated dual eligible special needs plans, clarifying coverage of durable medical equipment, and combatting possible fraudulent activity by requiring Part D sponsors to include an active and valid prescriber National Provider Identifier on prescription drug event records.
B. Issuance of a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking
In the proposed rule titled “Contract Year 2015 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs,” which appeared in the January 10, 2014Federal Register (79 FR 1918), we proposed to revise the Medicare Advantage (MA) program (Part C) regulations and prescription drug benefit program (Part D) regulations to implement statutory requirements; strengthen beneficiary protections; exclude plans that perform poorly; improve program efficiencies; and clarify program requirements. The proposed rule also included several provisions designed to improve payment accuracy.
C. Public Comments Received in Response to the CY 2015 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage and the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs Proposed Rule
We received approximately 7,600 timely pieces of correspondence containing multiple comments on the CY 2014 proposed rule. While we are finalizing several of the provisions from the proposed rule, there are a number of provisions from the proposed rule (for example, enrollment eligibility criteria for individuals not lawfully present in the United States) that we intend to address later and a few which we do not intend to finalize. We also note that some of the public comments were outside of the scope of the proposed rule. These out-of-scope public comments are not addressed in this final rule. Summaries of the public comments that are within the scope of the proposed rule and our responses to those public comments are set forth in the various sections of this final rule under the appropriate heading. However, we note that in this final rule we are not addressing comments received with respect to the provisions of the proposed rule that we are not finalizing at this time. Rather, we will address them at a later time, in a subsequent rulemaking document, as appropriate.