State-by-state breakdown of 354 rural hospitals at high risk of closing

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/state-by-state-breakdown-of-354-rural-hospitals-at-high-risk-of-closing.html?utm_medium=email

What Rural Hospital Closures Mean for EMS Professionals

Twenty-five percent of the 1,430 rural hospitals in the U.S. are at high risk of closing unless their finances improve, according to an annual analysis from Guidehouse, a consulting firm. 

The 354 rural hospitals at high risk of closing are spread across 40 states and represent more than 222,000 annual discharges. According to the analysis, 287 of these hospitals — 81 percent — are considered highly essential to the health and economic wellbeing of their communities.

Several factors are putting rural hospitals at risk of closing, according to the analysis, which looked at operating margin, days cash on hand, debt-to-capitalization ratio, current ratio and inpatient census to determine the financial viability of rural hospitals. Declining inpatient volume, clinician shortages, payer mix degradation and revenue cycle management challenges are among the factors driving the rural hospital crisis.

The Guidehouse study analyzed the financial viability of rural hospitals prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the authors noted that the rural hospital crisis could significantly worsen due to the pandemic or any downturn in the economy. 

Here are the number and percentage of rural hospitals at high risk of closing in each state based on the analysis:

Tennessee
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 19 (68 percent)

Alabama
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 18 (60 percent)

Oklahoma
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 28 (60 percent)

Arkansas
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 18 (53 percent)

Mississippi
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 25 (50 percent)

West Virginia
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 9 (50 percent)

South Carolina
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 4 (44 percent)

Georgia
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 14 (41 percent)

Kentucky
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 18 (40 percent)

Louisiana
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 11 (37 percent)

Maine
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 7 (33 percent)

Indiana
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 8 (31 percent)

Kansas
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 26 (31 percent)

New Mexico
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 3 (30 percent)

Michigan
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 13 (29 percent)

Missouri
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 10 (26 percent)

Virginia
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 5 (25 percent)

Oregon
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 4 (24 percent)

California
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 6 (23 percent)

North Carolina
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 6 (23 percent)

Florida
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 2 (22 percent)

North Dakota
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 7 (21 percent)

Ohio
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 6 (20 percent)

Vermont
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 2 (20 percent)

Idaho
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 4 (19 percent)

Pennsylvania
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 4 (19 percent)

Washington
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 5 (18 percent)

Wyoming
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 3 (18 percent)

Texas
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 14 (16 percent)

Colorado
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 4 (14 percent)

Illinois
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 7 (14 percent)

Montana
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 7 (14 percent)

Nebraska
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 8 (13 percent)

New York
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 4 (13 percent)

Iowa
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 9 (12 percent)

Minnesota
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 8 (11 percent)

Alaska
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 1 (10 percent)

Arizona
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 1 (10 percent)

New Hampshire
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 1 (9 percent)

Wisconsin
Rural hospitals at high risk of closing: 5 (9 percent)

 

 

 

How insurers are covering COVID-19

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/how-insurers-are-covering-covid-19/575372/

Private Health Coverage of COVID-19: Key Facts and Issues | The ...

Insurers are weighing how best to respond to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus as cases swell in the U.S. Here is a tracker to follow the latest policy and coverage decisions from the nation’s largest insurers.

The nation’s health insurers are responding to the coronavirus pandemic with changes to coverage associated with COVID-19 as the number of cases continues to swell across the U.S.

The biggest payers have said they will waive patient cost-sharing — copays, coinsurance and deductibles — for testing. Although some, such as Cigna and Humana, have gone farther by eliminating cost-sharing for all COVID-19 treatment.

In addition to coverage decisions, insurers are weighing the ways they can reduce administrative barriers to promote quicker access to care for those infected with the novel coronavirus. All are cutting back on prior authorization in various ways to ease access to care.

Hospitals say that’s not enough, and are calling on the biggest payers to follow actions taken by Congress and CMS to help resolve cash flow issues, by accelerating payments or opting into releasing interim periodic payments. The American Hospital Association also is urging payers to eliminate administrative burdens such as prior authorizations.

“This crisis is challenging for all of us, and everyone has a role to play,” AHA said in its letter to the nation’s largest insurers. “You could make a significant difference in whether a hospital or health system keeps their doors open during this critical time.”

Despite the policy changes by payers, employers with self-funded plans can opt out of these policies. A majority of workers are covered by self-insured plans, which essentially allow employers to decide coverage decisions given they’re paying for the claims and having insurers simply perform administrative services.

Below is a tracker with the latest coverage decisions for the nation’s largest insurers.

Blue Cross Blue Shield Association

The BCBSA is eliminating cost-sharing for COVID-19 diagnostic testing. It will also waive cost-sharing for treatment at in-network or Medciare rates through May 31, including inpatient stays.

BCBSA will remove prior authorization requirements for testing and for services that are medically necessary to treat an infected patient. BCBSA also is waiving limits on early refills to make it easier to access medications and expanding access to telehealth services.

Molina

Molina is halting cost-sharing for testing and treatment. That policy applies to Medicare, Medicaid and marketplace members nationwide.

Aetna (CVS)

Aetna will waive cost-sharing for certain members admitted to an in-network hospital with COVID-19 or complications from the disease. The policy applies to all of Aetna’s commercial plans, though self-insured members can opt out. The policy will apply to admissions through June 1. Aetna also is waiving cost-sharing for testing and associated visits, including telehealth.

Aetna also is attempting to make access to hospitalization faster for those with COVID-19 by easing prior authorization requirements, particularly in areas hard hit by the outbreak like New York and Washington.

Anthem

The nation’s second largest commercial insurer will waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment and will reimburse providers at either in-network or Medicare rates through May 31. The policy applies to Anthem’s fully insured, individual, Medicaid and Medicare Advantage members. Self-insured plans can opt out. Anthem also is waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing and in-network visits associated with testing whether it’s conducted at a physician’s office, urgent care or ER.

Anthem also is easing its limits on early refills for 30-day prescriptions. Anthem said it would waive cost sharing for telehealth visits, including those for mental health for a period of 90 days starting March 17. Self-insured plans have the option to opt in the new virtual care policy.

Centene

Centene will waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 related screening, testing and treatment for its Medicaid, Medicare and Marketplace members through June 30.

Centene also will eliminate prior authorization requirements for care for all its Medicare, Medicaid and Marketplace members. The company is also working to supply federally qualified health centers with personal protective equipment and assistance in providing small business loans to behavioral health providers and long-term service support organizations.

Cigna

Cigna will waive cost-sharing for all COVID-19 treatment, including testing and telehealth screenings through May 31. The policy applies to Cigna’s fully-insured group plans, individual coverage and Medicare Advantage plans. Self-insured plans can opt out.

Cigna will reimburse providers either at in-network or Medicare rates depending on the member. Cigna also is easing access to maintenance medication by offering free shipping for a 90-day supply. Cigna is easing prior authorization requirements for patients being discharged from the hospital to post-acure stays.

Humana

Humana is waiving cost-sharing for testing and treatment, including hospital admissions for COVID-19 cases. The policy applies to its Medicare Advantage plans, fully-insured commercial plans, Medicare supplement and its Medicaid plans. The policy is indefinite with no current end date. Cost-sharing will be waived for all telehealth visits and members can opt to refill prescriptions early.

Humana also is easing administrative barriers to allow infected patients to easily move from a hospital to post-acute care settings. It’s suspending prior authorization and referral requirements and requesting notification within 24 hours. It’s also implementing an expedited claims process to reimburse providers faster, Humana said.

UnitedHealthcare

The nation’s largest commercial insurer, will waive cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatment through May 31. The policy applies to its fully-insured commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid plans. United also is waiving cost-sharing for COVID-19 testing at approved locations in accordance with Centers for Disease Control guidelines. There will be no cost-sharing for visits related to testing including at physician offices, urgent care, ERs and telehealth visits. The policy applies to United’s commercial, Medicare Advantage and Medicaid members.

UnitedHealthcare is opening a special enrollment period for some of its commercial members who opted out of coverage during the traditional enrollment period with their employers. This enrollment period will end April 6. The insurer also is easing prior authorization requirements through May 31, suspending prior approval for post-acute care and switching to a new provider.

 

 

 

Jobless claims spike to another weekly record amid coronavirus crisis

https://www.axios.com/jobless-claims-unemployment-coronavirus-e54561c2-ed25-4f1e-8e32-7fbec81a9a24.html?stream=top&utm_source=alert&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=alerts_all

Jobless claims spike to 6.6 million, another weekly record amid ...

6.6 million people filed for unemployment last week, a staggering number that eclipses the record set just days ago amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to government data released Thursday.

Why it matters: Efforts to contain the outbreak are continuing to create a jobs crisis, causing the sharpest spikes in unemployment filings in American history.

  • The colossal number of unemployment filings is worse than most Wall Street banks were expecting.

The big picture: Nearly 10 million Americans have filed for unemployment claims in recent weeks, as businesses around the country shut down in response to the pandemic.

  • But the data lags by a week, so it’s almost certain labor departments around the country are still processing claims and people are still applying.

 

 

 

Justice Department sues Anthem, alleging Medicare fraud

https://www.axios.com/doj-anthem-lawsuit-medicare-advantage-fraud-11cdba13-eacd-4847-9bb0-20aa993235f9.html?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=newsletter_axiosvitals&stream=top

Justice Department sues Anthem alleging Medicare Advantage fraud ...

The Department of Justice has sued Anthem, alleging that the health insurance company knowingly submitted inaccurate medical codes to the federal government from 2014 to 2018 as a way to get higher payments for its Medicare Advantage plans and turned “a blind eye” to coding problems.

Why it matters: This is one of the largest Medicare Advantage fraud lawsuits to date, and federal prosecutors believe they have more than enough to evidence to claim that Anthem bilked millions of dollars from taxpayers.

Background: DOJ has been probing the “risk adjustment” practices of all the major Medicare Advantage insurers for years, but hadn’t pulled the trigger on a lawsuit against a major player.

  • Risk adjustment is the process by which Medicare Advantage companies assign scores to their members based on the health conditions they have. Patients who have higher risk scores lead to higher payments from the federal government to the companies that insure them.
  • Insurers are required to review patients’ medical charts to verify the health conditions, and if insurers find any inaccurate diagnoses, they have to be deleted — which also would require the companies to pay back money to the federal government.

The Department of Justice is alleging that Anthem reviewed medical records, but only focused on finding “all possible new revenue-generating codes” while purposefully ignoring all erroneous diagnoses.

  • For example, according to the DOJ’s lawsuit, Anthem coded one member in 2015 as having active lung cancer.
  • “Anthem’s chart review program did not substantiate the active lung cancer diagnosis,” the DOJ alleges. Instead of deleting that diagnosis, Anthem allegedly added another three codes — leading to a $7,000 overpayment just for that member that year.

The other side: Anthem said in a statement that it intends “to vigorously defend our Medicare risk adjustment practices” and that “the government is trying to hold Anthem and other Medicare Advantage plans to payment standards that CMS does not apply to original Medicare.”

The big picture: Medicare Advantage continues to enroll seniors and people with disabilities at high rates, even as more allegations of fraud come out against the insurers that run the program.

Read the lawsuit.

 

 

 

 

Aetna draws criticism for automatic down-codes for office visits

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/aetna-draws-criticism-for-automatic-down-codes-for-office-visits.html?utm_medium=email

Image result for health insurance downcoding

Providers are concerned a new national policy from Aetna involving evaluation and management services will result in inappropriate down-codes.

Under the policy, Aetna will automatically down-code claims submitted for office visits or certain modifiers when the the insurer finds an “apparent overcode rate of 50 percent or higher.” The policy concerns office visits with the 99000 series of evaluation and management codes and the 92000 series of ophthalmologic examination codes, as well as modifiers 25 and 59, the American Optometric Association said in an advocacy post.

AOA said Aetna didn’t explain how an overcoding determination is made under the insurer’s algorithm, whether with or without medical record reviews.

“The AOA believes it is inappropriate to downcode such claims without first reviewing actual medical records and questions whether it complies with HIPAA; a variety of state laws related to fair, accurate and timely processing of claims; and Aetna’s contracts with patients and physicians alike,” the association said on its advocacy page.

Physicians can appeal down-coded claims through Aetna’s internal process.

In a statement to Becker’s Hospital Review, Aetna explained why it implemented the policy:

“We periodically review our claims data for correct coding and to implement programs that support nationally recognized and accepted coding policies and practices. Through a recent review, we identified healthcare providers across several specialties who are significant outliers with respect to coding practices. While we recognize that healthcare providers undoubtedly may have complex medical cases that are unique to their practice, this result is much higher than the average for physicians across most specialties.

“For this small, targeted group of healthcare providers, we will review their claims against [American Medical Association] and CMS coding guidelines. Based on that review, we may potentially adjust their payments if the information on the claim is not supported by the level of service documented in the medical record.”

 

Miami man with ‘junk plan’ owes thousands after hospital visit for coronavirus symptoms

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/miami-man-with-junk-plan-owes-thousands-after-hospital-visit-for-coronavirus-symptoms.html?utm_medium=email

Image result for skinny health plans

A man in Miami went to Jackson Memorial Hospital last month to receive a test for coronavirus after developing flu-like symptoms. He didn’t have the virus, but he was hit with a $3,270 medical bill, according to the Miami Herald.   

Osmel Martinez Azcue said he normally would have used over-the-counter medicine to fight his flu-like symptoms. However, since he had recently visited China, he followed the advice of public health experts and went to the hospital to get tested for coronavirus, known as COVID-19. 

Mr. Azcue said hospital staff told him a CT scan would be necessary to screen for coronavirus. He asked to receive a flu test first. The flu test came back positive.

A few weeks after leaving Jackson Memorial Hospital, Mr. Azcue received a $3,270 medical bill. Though he was insured, Mr. Azcue had a so-called “junk plan,” which offered limited benefits and didn’t cover pre-existing conditions.

Based on his insurance plan, Mr. Azcue is responsible for $1,400 of the bill, hospital officials told the Miami Herald. However, to get the claim covered, Mr. Azcue said his insurance company requested three years of medical records to show that his flu didn’t relate to pre-existing conditions.

The sale of “junk plans,” like the one Mr. Azcue pays $180 per month for, expanded after President Donald Trump’s administration rolled back ACA regulations in 2018.

Access the full Miami Herald article here.

 

Financial updates from UnitedHealth, Anthem + 5 other for-profit payers

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/payer-issues/financial-updates-from-unitedhealth-anthem-5-other-for-profit-payers.html?utm_medium=email

The following seven health insurers recently released their financial statements for the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2019:

1. Anthem saw its revenues and profits grow in the fourth quarter, but the insurer missed analysts’ earnings expectations.

2. Cigna continued to realize higher revenues and profits in the fourth quarter, thanks to its subsidiary Express Scripts.

3. Molina Healthcare ended the fourth quarter with lower net income than a year prior as premium revenues declined.

4. Humana saw total revenue and net income grow in the fourth quarter, thanks in part to growth in its Medicare Advantage business and health services segment.

5. Centene Corp. saw its revenues grow in the fourth quarter, but experienced higher-than-expected flu costs.

6. UnitedHealth Group saw its revenues just miss analysts’ expectations in the fourth quarter, but the health insurance giant’s Optum unit boosted profits.

7. Aetna‘s parent company, CVS Health, exceeded Wall Street’s expectations with its fourth-quarter results, boosted largely by its pharmacy benefit management business.