CMS puts focus on health equity in Medicare Advantage, Part D Advance Notice

The annual rule governing Medicare Advantage and Part D is putting a focus on health equity, the Biden administration announced late Wednesday.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its proposed Advance notice for Medicare Advantage and Part D in 2023, and, in the regulation, the agency proposes updating the MA and Part D star ratings to account for how well a plan tackles health equity.

CMS is seeking comment specifically on a potential quality measure for the star ratings that would assess how often plans are screening for common social needs such as food insecurity, housing insecurity and transportation challenges.

“Our goals for Medicare Advantage mirror our vision for CMS’ programs as a whole, which is to advance health equity; drive comprehensive, person-centered care; and promote affordability and the sustainability of the Medicare program,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure in a statement.

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CMS Deputy Administrator and Center for Medicare Director Meena Seshamani, M.D., said in a statement that the proposed Heath Equity Index aims to enhance transparency around how MA plans are treating "our most vulnerable beneficiaries" as well as encourage improvements in their care.

In addition, CMS is seeking feedback on using sub-state geographic levels of rate setting for members who have end-stage renal disease. Seniors with ESRD were only recently allowed to enroll in MA plans rather than traditional Medicare.

The agency is particularly looking for input on how MA payments impact the care provided to underserved populations in rural or urban areas, again to focus on health equity.

The rule will be open for comment for 30 days, meaning comments must be submitted by March 4. The final rate announcement for 2023 will be released no later than April 4.