While Medicare’s recent changes and emerging alternate payment models are top-of-mind for many in the healthcare industry today, it is equally important to pay attention to the day-to-day management of payer contracts.
According to Andrea Woodell, Vice President of Managed Care at Regent Surgical Health, even as MACRA (Medicare Access & CHIP Reauthorization Act) drives healthcare to performance targets it will take some time for those changes to take full effect. Meanwhile, healthcare facilities can’t lose sight of their routine negotiations. “It’s not magic, it just takes constant attention,” Woodell says. “One of the biggest mistakes that many centers make is not renegotiating contracts annually, or entering into multi-year contracts without factoring in incremental increases each year.”
Many ambulatory surgery centers in the industry do not revisit and renegotiate their managed care contracts annually to maximize their payments. Keeping reimbursement contracts current is critical for ongoing financial health of most centers. “If you’re not getting at least a 3% increase each year, you’re probably falling behind,” Woodell explains. “We advise centers to look at contracts annually. Identify the facility team member with the correct skill set and align their incentive plan to reward annual payer negotiations and go get those increases!”
Even for standalone surgery centers in saturated markets with no hospital partners, Woodell says, it is possible – and important – to negotiate minimum annual increases of 3%. SWB, new technologies and medical instrumentation, and implants drive up the cost of surgery every year. “I am working on a new project with development reviewing a center’s agreements for the lift I can bring; one of the contracts was last negotiated in 2002 and pays well below Medicare. If the agreement had been touched annually their payments could be 40% higher for that payer.”
Woodell outlines two key steps for centers looking to do a better job in this important area:
“One strategy we’ve found to be effective, is to involve a surgeon in the negotiations. Elevating the negotiation beyond your financial counterpart at the payer organization changes the dynamic. If you have your surgeon contact the VP over ancillaries on the payer side, it can completely change the conversation and may have the power to take you from a 3% increase in a contract year to 10 or 15%.”
Another of Woodell’s recommendations is to pay attention to your facility’s relationships with payers. “These relationships are more important than ever,” she says. “If they don’t like you, not only will they not help you, they will hurt you. – A good relationship with a payer means you understand their challenges as much as you want them to understand yours, and you help them help you by giving them good, objective data that they can take on to their interior team to help you achieve what you’re asking for.”
The bottom line in these contract negotiations, according to Woodell, is to demonstrate the value and cost savings that you’re providing to payer organization. Focused attention, surgeon involvement and strong relationships within the infrastructure of payer organizations can improve results beyond the standard response of “No, all I can do is 2%.”
To learn more about payer negotiations and how Regent RCM can help, contact 312-882-7228.