On April 1, 2013, CMS released the 2014 rate announcement and final call letter for Medicare Advantage (MA) and Part D prescription drug plans. Notably, under final rate announcement, CMS is forecasting that the final estimate of the combined effect of the Medicare Advantage (MA) growth percentage and the fee-for-service (FFS) growth percentage is 3.3%, compared to -2.2% in the advance call letter, which has the effect of increasing MA plan payment rates. This reversal is a result of CMS building into its spending forecast the assumption that Congress will once again override scheduled cuts in Medicare payments to physicians under the sustainable growth rate formula (thereby allowing MA plan payments to be compared to higher expected FFS spending levels). CMS also is phasing in the alignment of MA benchmarks with Medicare FFS costs and adjusting for diagnostic coding differences between MA plans and FFS providers, along with revising the risk adjustment model.

With regard to Part D, CMS notes that for the first time in the Part D program’s history, the costs of beneficiary coverage are falling, with the 2014 defined standard Part D prescription drug benefit having lower co-payments and deductible than in 2013. CMS also is adopting a number of policy changes for 2014, including requiring Part D plan retail and mail pharmacies to obtain patient consent to deliver a prescription, new or refill, prior to each delivery (CMS also encourages Part D plans to implement this consent requirement for the remainder of this year). While CMS had proposed requiring Part D sponsors to place beneficiary-level prior authorization requirements on certain categories of drugs which may be covered under the hospice or end stage renal disease (ESRD) benefits, so as to ensure that these drugs are appropriately payable under Part D before the prescriptions are filled, the final policy permits sponsors to use other approaches, such as pay-and-chase, to resolve payment responsibility in these situations.