On Tuesday, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a proposed rule that aims to streamline the prior authorization process by requiring certain payers to establish a method for electronic transmission, shorten response time for physician requests, and provide a reason for denials. This rule replaces one proposed in December 2020 that was never finalized.
In addition to applying to Medicaid and Affordable Care Act exchange plans, the new rule would also apply to Medicare Advantage plans, which the previous rule did not. If finalized, it will take effect in 2026.
The Gist: Managing prior authorization requests is one of providers’ greatest sources of frustration, with over 80 percent of physicians rating it as “very or extremely burdensome” in a recent Medical Group Management Association survey.
Not only would patients would benefit from faster turnarounds, but even major payers agree that the status quo is suboptimal, and payer advocacy organization AHIP has signaled support for transmitting prior authorization requests electronically.
The challenge for regulators will be to strike a balance that satisfies the competing interests of payers and providers—turnaround time is likely to be a sticking point—but the one good thing about a system that no one likes is that there’s plenty of room for improvement.