Payers discuss Medicare Advantage (MA) misses at JP Morgan healthcare conference

https://mailchi.mp/92a96980a92f/the-weekly-gist-january-14-2022?e=d1e747d2d8

2021 JP Morgan Healthcare Conference | Zoetis

Large insurers Humana and Cigna, along with “insurtech” startups Bright Health and Alignment Healthcare, all lowered expectations for their MA membership growth after missing 2022 enrollment targets. The companies blamed fierce competition for the nation’s estimated 29.5M MA lives, and highlighted a focus on diversifying revenue through other business arms like healthcare delivery and service sales.    

The Gist: Insurers’ missed expectations are leading some to question whether the MA market is beginning to weaken, but these concerns are overblown, with last fall’s enrollment affected by the pandemic, which hindered brokers’ ability to reach seniors. 

Some MA-focused startups are finding challenges in their attempts to scale, and their stock prices will continue to retreat from the lofty valuations that drove their public offerings.

Insurers still have plenty of running room to grow their MA books of business, but will face increasing scrutiny of their ability to manage patients and control costs for the aging population.

Medicare’s looming premium hike

Two workers serve food to two elderly women at a senior living center.

Monthly premiums that cover physician and outpatient care for Medicare patients will increase by 15% next year, the Biden administration said in a notice Friday evening.

Why it matters: People on Medicare are getting slammed with a big hike during an election year, due largely to the big price tag from the questionable Alzheimer’s treatment, Aduhelm, and uncertainty stemming from the coronavirus.

By the numbers: Standard Medicare Part B premiums will be $170.10 per month next year, up from $148.50 per month this year.

  • That equals an extra $259.20 in extra costs over the course of the year, just in premiums.
  • The Part B deductible also is increasing 15%, from $203 to $233.

Between the lines: Medicare is still determining whether it will pay for Aduhelm yet, but federal actuaries have to plan for a “high-cost scenario of Aduhelm coverage,” regulators said.

  • The FDA approved Aduhelm in June, and Biogen priced Aduhelm at $56,000 per year on average.
  • That price tag, along with all of the hospital and doctor costs associated with administering the drug and ancillary tests, could lead to “very significant” costs for the taxpayer-funded program, according to the notice.

The bottom line: The pandemic has made it difficult to predict future Medicare spending, such as trying to determine whether patients will get more non-COVID care that had been put off.

  • But Aduhelm — a treatment that has not conclusively proved that it improves brain function of Alzheimer’s patients — is now a high-profile example of pharma pricing power affecting Medicare patients’ pocketbooks and represents a redistribution of taxpayer money into Biogen’s coffers.

If Economists Chose the Health Care System

If Economists Chose the Health Care System - YouTube

Health economists study the economic determinants of health. They also analyze how health care resources are utilized and allocated, and how health care policies and quality of care can be improved. In this episode, we discuss what exactly a healthcare system would look like if these professionals were calling all the shots.

Would Medicare for All Increase Your Wages?

Would Medicare for All Increase Your Wages? - YouTube

Medicare for All, which would extend health coverage to all Americans, has been a hot topic of debate in recent years. Researchers have looked into the many ways that a switch to Medicare for All might change our lives, and one of those areas of change might be wages. Employer provided healthcare is baked into our current system of healthcare, and there are a lot of studies that look at how employer paid premiums can depress wages, and how our paychecks might shift in a M4A-type situation.

Drug pricing, most Medicare expansions are out of Biden’s economic bill

https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/10/28/drug-pricing-most-medicare-expansions-are-out-biden-economic-bill/

The FDA could greenlight a vaccine for kids as soon as Friday and more workers now have vaccine mandates. But first: 

Democrats are ditching progressives’ health priorities in their economic bill

The White House says Democrats have clinched a deal. 

The $1.75 trillion framework for Biden’s massive social spending bill temporarily funds several of the party’s health care ambitions. But it includes big misses on health care, such as significantly paring back progressives’ goal of adding new benefits to Medicare — instead including only coverage for hearing services — and excluding Democrats’ plan aimed at lowering the sky-high prices of prescription drugs. 

Will all Democrats get on board? Senior administration officials projected confidence that they would, and characterized the framework as the biggest expansion of health care in a decade. Yet, it includes major defeats for the party’s more liberal members, who have been reticent to draw red lines on what they would or wouldn’t support.

It’s a critical day. President Biden is heading to huddle privately with House Democrats this morning. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans for the chamber’s Rules Committee to hold a hearing, although legislative text hasn’t yet been released. And before leaving for his trip overseas, Biden will speak publicly about the path forward for his legislative agenda, per a White House official. 

Early this morning, senior administration officials spoke to reporters on the condition of anonymity to detail the framework. 

What’s in and what’s out

Prescription drug negotiation: OUT

Democrats campaigned on reducing prices of prescription drugs — and letting Medicare directly force lower prices is a key plank of that effort. But the party couldn’t overcome fierce divisions amid a lobbying storm.

  •  “At the end of the day, there are not yet enough votes to get something across the line to deliver what the American people need and expect on prescription drugs,” a senior administration official said. “We’re going to keep fighting to get this done and deliver lower drug prices.”

The House’s signature drug proposal faced resistance from a trio of House moderates who instead backed more limited drug negotiation. On the other side of the Capitol, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema had raised objections and other senators had concerns with a bill as sweeping as the one the House passed in 2019. The industry’s main trade group has been working furiously to keep the proposal out of Democrats’ economic package.

  • Of note: The framework includes fully repealing a Trump-era ban on prescription drug rebates as a way to offset the cost of the package. The administration anticipates that would save $145 billion.

Medicare expansion: mostly OUT

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the House Congressional Progressive Caucus have been bullish on two main health policies: allowing the federal government to negotiate drug prices, and using those savings to expand Medicare to cover dental, vision and hearing.

The framework only creates a new Medicare benefit for hearing. 

  • Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), the chair of the CPC, has repeatedly said her 96 members aren’t drawing red lines. But here’s how she characterized the CPC’s thoughts yesterday: “For a lot of members, it’s like what are we doing for seniors? How do we make sure we get some benefits for seniors in here?”
  • Sanders is the person to watch here. He’s long championed expanding Medicare, and has already come down on his ambitions for a wide-ranging $6 trillion bill.

Closing the Medicaid coverage gap: IN 

The framework extends coverage for 2.2 million adults in the dozen, mostly GOP-led states that have refused Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. They’ll get tax credits to receive premium-free health coverage on the Obamacare health exchanges through 2025. 

Earlier this week, Manchin raised concerns with allowing the federal government to pay for health coverage for 2.2 million adults in the dozen, mostly GOP-led states refusing Obamacare’s Medicaid expansion. His own colleagues — such as Georgia Sens. Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff — lobbied heavily to change his mind.

Obamacare subsidies: IN

The framework would extend more generous financial help to Obamacare consumers through 2025, building on an effort that began in Biden’s coronavirus relief bill passed this spring. 

In-home care: IN 

Biden has pushed for a $400 billion investment in home care for seniors and the disabled. It’s been clear for weeks that his ask will be significantly pared back. Administration officials said funding for home and community-based services is included in the framework, but didn’t detail how much money would go toward the program helping keep seniors and those with disabilities out of institutional settings.   

Democrats’ risky health care play

https://www.axios.com/democrats-health-care-coverage-medicaid-affordable-care-act-4758a48b-fc65-4ca4-8c1e-888c882e759f.html

Some Democrats say it’s possible that pieces of their social policy agenda end up being enacted or extended for only a year or two, including major Affordable Care Act and Medicaid provisions.

Why it matters: Limited terms may be the only way Democrats can strike a deal within their budget. But the risk is that Republicans will be able to undo these temporary programs if they’re able to regain control of Congress through next year’s midterms.

  • There also aren’t many policy areas that Republicans are less excited about than the ACA and Medicaid expansion.

What they’re saying: Extending programs for only a year or two is a “possibility,” Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Axios.

  • Extending enhanced ACA subsidies and closing the Medicaid coverage gap were measures that “we wanted … to be permanent,” said Sen. Ben Cardin D-Md.). “Clearly there’s a lot of pressure to get as much in as we can, [which] means shorter periods.”
  • “I think all of the programs are being considered for shorter periods. There are some that are of greater importance to get as long as possible,” Cardin added. He said it’s also possible that an extension of the child tax credit would also last only a year.

The big picture: Political, budgetary and practical factors are all at play as Democrats try to figure out what’s in and what’s out of their reconciliation bill.

  • But one giant consideration when it comes to the health care provisions — particularly the ACA and Medicaid ones — is that Republicans may not feel compelled to extend these programs should they gain power.
  • “I expect Republicans would be glad to take back the mantle of the child tax credit but Democrats should not fool themselves into thinking Republicans will feel any real pressure to extend these health care policies,” said Brendan Buck, a longtime aide to former Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan.

The other side: Republicans may encounter political pressures similar to the ones they did in 2017, when they struggled — and ultimately failed — to repeal and replace the ACA.

  • Declining to extend Democrat-enacted coverage policies in the next couple of years would be somewhat similar, in that the result would be millions of low-income people would lose their health coverage or see its cost skyrocket.
  • Also, most of the states that haven’t expanded Medicaid are ruby-red.
  • “Remember what happened with the Affordable Care Act — they said that they didn’t like these things, but then they couldn’t repeal them because they didn’t have another option,” said Sen. Tina Smith, (D-Minn.)

Yes, but: But inaction is different from voting to end a benefit, Buck said.

  • Some Democrats are skeptical, too.
  • “The modern Republican party isn’t for much other than the destruction of government. So the idea that Republicans are going to want to hold onto programs even if they benefit the middle class runs a bit contrary to the recent history of the party,” said Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.).

The bottom line: At this point, Democrats will take any party-wide agreement they can get. And temporary health coverage expansions may have their upside.

  • “It’s an easy way to slim costs,” said one Democratic strategist, adding that it allows both Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to claim victory.
  • “If I’m [Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer, I do it for a year and make Republicans vote on it in October,” right before the midterm elections, the strategist added.

Schumer: Medicare, prescription drugs hold up final deal

https://thehill.com/homenews/senate/578547-schumer-medicare-prescription-drugs-among-holdups-to-final-deal?userid=12325

Do Not 'Cave to Big Pharma': 60+ Groups Tell Schumer, Pelosi to Deliver on  Drug Pricing Reform

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters Tuesday that negotiators still haven’t reached agreement on language to expand Medicare benefits and lower the price of prescription drugs, two major pieces of their agenda, but insisted “a final deal is within reach.”

Schumer signaled to reporters that Democrats are much closer to agreement on climate provisions, which he promised would make a “robust” contribution to addressing global warming.

But he acknowledged that two of Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders’s (I-Vt.) top priorities, expanding Medicare and cutting the cost of prescription drugs, remain unresolved.

The other holdups are a disagreement over creating a Medicaid-type program to expand health care coverage in states that opted out of expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, the length of a national paid family leave program, and a proposal to empower the IRS to broadly review banking activity to find unreported tax obligations.

“I believe that we will get this done and we will get it done soon,” Schumer said after a caucus meeting. “No one ever said that passing transformational legislation like this would be easy but are on track to get it done.

“There is universal consensus in our caucus that we have to come to agreement despite the differences in views on many issues,” he added. “I believe a final deal is within reach.”

Schumer said negotiators are making good progress on the climate provisions, despite a recent decision to drop the $150 billion Clean Electricity Performance Program, which was a top priority of progressives who want to tackle carbon emissions.

“There’s going to be a very strong, robust climate package. And our goal is to meet the president’s goal and there are different ways to get there,” he said.

But he acknowledged the dispute between Sanders and Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) over expanding Medicare benefits and empowering the federal government to negotiate lower prescription drug prices remains unresolved.

“We’re working on both those issues now. As I said, we’re making progress. We’re not there yet on either of them but it’s important to do,” he said.

Schumer said earlier in the press conference that expanding Medicare benefits is one of his top priorities telling reporters: “I believe strengthening Medicare is very, very important.”

Large majorities want Medicare to negotiate drug prices, poll finds

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/large-majorities-want-medicare-negotiate-drug-prices-poll-finds

Large majorities of American voters across all political stripes favor letting Medicare negotiate drug prices, and most don’t buy into the argument that high drug prices are needed for drug companies to invest in new research, according to a new poll from the Kaiser Family Foundation.

About 83% of all voters favor letting the federal government negotiate drug prices. Broken down by political ideology, that translates to 95% of Democrats, 82% of independents and 71% of Republicans.

About eight in 10 adults (83%) and adults 65 and older (78%) say they think the cost of prescription drugs is “unreasonable.”

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

The Democrats’ budget reconciliation package includes a proposal to allow the federal government to negotiate prescription drug prices on behalf of Medicare beneficiaries and people enrolled in private plans. The proposal, which has been part of previous legislative proposals and estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to result in about $450 billion in savings to Medicare, has met strong opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, as well as some lawmakers. 

Yet the proposal is largely popular among the public across parties, as well as among seniors, the group most directly impacted by such legislation.

The poll finds that when the public is presented with the main arguments being made by advocates on both sides of the debate, the shift in opinion is modest and support for negotiation remains high.

The argument against negotiation is that the government would be too involved, and would lead to fewer new drugs being available in the future. The argument for negotiation is that Americans pay higher prices than people in other countries, many can’t afford their prescriptions and drug company profits are too high.

After hearing the arguments for and against the proposal to allow the federal government to negotiate prices with drug companies, attitudes remained relatively unchanged with a majority continuing to favor the proposal.

Neither President Joe Biden nor members of either party in Congress have gained the full confidence of the public to do what’s right for the country on prescription drug pricing. Slightly less than half of the public say they have “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in President Biden (46%) or Democrats in Congress (48%) to recommend the right thing for the country on prescription drug prices.

One-third of the public (33%) say they have at least a fair amount of confidence in Republicans in Congress, and few are confident that pharmaceutical companies will recommend the right thing (14%).

THE LARGER TREND

In August, President Biden called on Congress to pass solutions to lower prescription drug prices and hold brand-name drug manufacturers accountable, and said Medicare should have the ability to negotiate lower drug prices.

The president called for Medicare to cap yearly out-of-pocket drug costs for beneficiaries, as well as backing Food and Drug Administration efforts to accelerate the development of generic medicines, which typically have far lower costs to consumers. The negotiation push was part of a $3.5 trillion budget proposal that narrowly passed the House in August. 

This met with opposition from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, which aired television ads saying the move to have Medicare negotiate drug prices would take away consumer choice.

PhRMA CEO and president Stephen Ubl said by statement after Biden’s August speech: “Unfortunately, the policies the president outlined today would undermine access to life-saving medicines and fail to address an insurance system that shifts the cost of treatments onto vulnerable patients. Many in Congress know that access to medicine is critical for millions of patients and Medicare is not a piggy bank to be raided to fund other, unrelated government programs. This is a misguided approach.”

Ubl was referring to HR 3, the Elijah Cummings lower Drug Costs Now Act, which would use the money saved in Part D negotiations to help offset the $3.5 trillion spending bill. HR 3 passed the House in 2019 but was never voted on by the Senate.

It wasn’t the first time Biden has proposed having Medicare negotiate drug prices. In May, Biden called on Congress to lower prescription drug prices as part of his administration’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget. During a joint address to Congress in April, the president called for lawmakers to work toward bipartisan solutions to lower prescription drug prices, including giving Medicare the ability to negotiate.

Medicare, Medicare Advantage enrollees have comparable healthcare experiences

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/medicare-medicare-advantage-enrollees-have-comparable-healthcare-experiences

Enrollment in Medicare Advantage plans is increasing rapidly, and many insurers are expanding their MA offerings in a bid to grab larger portions of the market share. Medicare Advantage touts itself as having certain advantages over traditional Medicare, such as fitness benefits, coverage for hearing aids and eyeglasses, and limits on out-of-pocket spending.

This begs the question: Are enrollees in the two versions of Medicare fundamentally different, and what are their experiences like in terms of satisfaction?

New analysis from the Commonwealth Fund found that Medicare Advantage enrollees do not differ significantly from beneficiaries in traditional Medicare in terms of their age, race, income, chronic conditions, satisfaction with care, or access to care, after excluding Special Needs Plan (SNP) enrollees. 

Both groups reported waiting more than a month for physician office visits, while similar shares of Medicare Advantage and traditional Medicare enrollees report that their out-of-pocket costs make it difficult to obtain care.

Ultimately, MA and traditional Medicare are serving similar populations, with beneficiaries having comparable healthcare experiences. The care management services provided by Medicare Advantage plans appear to neither impede access to care nor reduce concerns about costs.

WHAT’S THE IMPACT?

Beneficiaries weigh a number of trade-offs when deciding whether to enroll in Medicare Advantage plans or traditional Medicare. Unlike the latter, MA plans are required to place limits on enrollees’ out-of-pocket spending and to maintain provider networks. The plans also can provide benefits not covered by traditional Medicare, such as eyeglasses, fitness benefits and hearing aids. 

Medicare Advantage plans are intended to manage and coordinate beneficiaries’ care. Some MA plans specialize in care for people with diabetes and other common chronic conditions, including Special Needs Plans. SNPs also focus on people who are eligible for both Medicare and Medicaid and on those who require an institutional level of care.

Traditional Medicare and MA enrollees have historically had different characteristics, with MA enrollees somewhat healthier. Black and Hispanic beneficiaries and those with lower incomes have tended to enroll in MA plans at higher rates than others, while traditional Medicare has historically performed better on beneficiary-reported metrics, such as provider access, ease of getting needed care, and overall care experience.

The Commonwealth Fund found that, after excluding beneficiaries in SNPs, beneficiaries enrolled in traditional Medicare do not differ significantly from MA enrollees on age, income, or receipt of a Part D low-income subsidy (LIS), which helps low-income individuals pay for prescription drugs. But beneficiaries in traditional Medicare are significantly more likely than MA enrollees to reside in a metropolitan area and more likely to live in a long-term-care or residential facility.

Beneficiaries in SNPs are different. Given the eligibility criteria for these plans, it’s not surprising that enrollees tend to have significantly lower incomes and a greater likelihood of receiving Medicaid benefits or LIS than other Medicare beneficiaries. 

Enrollment in SNPs for people who require an institutional level of care has been growing rapidly, leading to a similar share of SNP enrollees and beneficiaries in traditional Medicare living in a long-term-care facility.

There are some areas in which Medicare Advantage plans appear to perform better than traditional Medicare. In particular, MA enrollees are more likely than those in traditional Medicare to have a treatment plan, to have someone who reviews their prescriptions, to have someone they can contact for help, and to receive a response to a health query relatively quickly. 

By providing this additional help, Medicare Advantage plans are making it easier for enrollees to get the help they need to manage their healthcare conditions, the report found. Medicare experts have suggested providing a similar service to beneficiaries in traditional Medicare through care coordinators.

The results also raise questions about whether Medicare Advantage plans are receiving appropriate payments. MedPAC estimates that plans are paid 4% more than it would cost to cover similar people in traditional Medicare. 

On the one hand, Medicare Advantage plans seem to be providing services that help their enrollees manage their care, and this added care management could be of significant value to both plan enrollees and the Medicare program. On the other hand, rates of hospitalizations and emergency room visits are similar for beneficiaries in Medicare Advantage plans and traditional Medicare. This calls into question the impact of the added services on healthcare use, spending and outcomes.

THE LARGER TREND

Insurers are expanding their Medicare Advantage offerings at a decent clip, with Humana announcing last week it would debut a new Medicare Advantage PPO plan in 37 rural counties in North Carolina in response to market demand in the eastern part of the state.

Just last week, UnitedHealthcare, which already has significant market control with its MA plans, said it will strengthen its foothold in the space by expanding its MA plans in 2022, adding a potential 3.1 million members and reaching 94% of Medicare-eligible consumers in the U.S.

And for the third straight year, health insurer Cigna is expanding its Medicare Advantage plans, growing into 108 new counties and three new states – Connecticut, Oregon and Washington – which will increase its geographic presence by nearly 30%.

Centene is also getting in on the act, expanding MA into 327 new counties and three new states: Massachusetts, Nebraska and Oklahoma. In all, this represents a 26% expansion of Centene’s MA footprint, with the offering available to a potential 48 million beneficiaries across 36 states.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in late September that the average premium for Medicare Advantage plans will be lower in 2022 at $19 per month, compared with $21.22 in 2021. However, Part D coverage is rising to $33 per month, compared with $31.47 in 2021.

Enrollment in MA continues to increase, CMS said. In 2022, it’s projected to reach 29.5 million people, compared with 26.9 million enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2021.

Map: See the 2,500 hospitals that face readmission penalties this year

Which States Had the Most Hospitals Penalized for Readmissions 2020

A recent CMS analysis of its Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program (HRRP) found that 2,500 hospitals will face HRRP penalty reductions and around 18% of hospitals will face penalties of at least 1% of their Medicare reimbursements for fiscal year (FY) 2022, Modern Healthcare reports.

Cheat sheet: Hospital readmissions reduction program

How HRRP works

Under the HRRP, CMS withholds up to 3% of regular reimbursements for hospitals if they have a higher-than-expected number of 30-day readmissions for any of six conditions:
Toolkit: CV medical readmissions reduction

  • Chronic lung disease
  • Coronary artery bypass graft surgery
  • Heart attacks
  • Heart failure
  • Hip and knee replacements
  • Pneumonia

Historically, hospitals received a penalty if their observed readmissions for any one of these conditions exceeded a national standard. However, in response to criticism, CMS in 2019 scrapped the national standard comparison standard. It now compares hospitals’ performance with that of other hospitals serving a similar population of low-income patients.

Under the current methodology, CMS has categorized all participating hospitals into quintiles according to the proportion of dual-eligible patients (patients eligible for Medicare and Medicaid) each hospital serves. Now, each hospital is compared with the median readmissions performance of its cohort, and hospitals with higher-than-cohort-median performance are penalized.

The program does not apply to veterans hospitals, children’s hospitals, psychiatric hospitals, or hospitals in Maryland, which has a federal waiver for how it distributes Medicare funding. In addition, hospitals are not evaluated under the program if they do not treat enough cases of the conditions evaluated.

Fewer hospitals are facing high HRRP penalties

In a recent analysis, CMS looked at HRRP data from July 2017 to December 2019. It found that 2,500 hospitals will face HRRP penalty reductions for FY 2022, and around 18% of hospitals will be penalized more than 1% of their reimbursements, down from 20% from July 2016 through June 2019.
The financial value of readmissions reduction

The analysis also found that 80% of hospitals with the highest proportion of Medicare-Medicaid dual-eligible patients will pay penalties, while nearly 72% of hospitals with the lowest proportion of dual-eligible patients will receive penalties.

This likely will be the last set of readmissions data unaffected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Under ordinary circumstances, CMS reviews three years of data in calculating HRRP penalties, so the agency ordinarily would have considered data from July 2017 to June 2020 in calculating the fiscal year 2022 penalties. However, CMS elected to stop its analysis in December 2019 to exclude data gathered during the Covid-19 pandemic.

CMS has not yet said how it will handle readmissions data from the pandemic, Modern Healthcare reports.

Reaction

Akin Demehin, director of policy for the American Hospital Association (AHA), said the drop in hospitals paying high HRRP penalties is a success.

“America’s hospitals and health systems have made substantial progress in reducing unnecessary readmissions, which has improved quality and enhanced care coordination,” Demehin said.

Demehin also praised CMS for excluding data from the Covid-19 pandemic from its analysis.

“We are pleased that CMS heard our concerns and excluded data from the first six months of 2020 to account for the pandemic when calculating performance,” he said. “We will continue to ask CMS to use its discretion to exclude pandemic-affected data in calculating performance in its hospital quality and value programs going forward.”

Demehin also added that CMS should expand its peer-grouping of hospitals by incorporating other social risk factors beyond a hospital’s control.

Peer grouping provides relief to many hospitals serving the poorest and most vulnerable communities,” he said. “Congress gave CMS the ability to refine its social risk factor adjustment approach over time, and because the research and science on this issue continues to evolve, the AHA has encouraged CMS to consider ongoing refinements.” (Gillespie, Modern Healthcare, 10/1)