On January 15, 2021, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the agency’s “CMS Interoperability and Prior Authorization” rule to improve the prior authorization process and give patients more control in accessing and understanding their health data. Under the rule, certain payers, such as Medicaid and CHIP managed care plans, state Medicaid and CHIP fee-for-service programs (FFS) and those that issue individual market Qualified Health Plans (QHPs) on the federally-facilitated exchanges (FFEs)) must create and utilize technology known as application programing interfaces (APIs). APIs are commonly used in smartphone applications, and when incorporated into electronic health records (EHR), can enable simple and immediate access to health data for providers.
Each payer obligated under this rule must build a documentation search program driven by an API, and make the program public, allowing providers to access health documentation and prior authorization requirements from various EHR platforms. Once a provider determines what each prior authorization requires, the authorization can then be submitted electronically. Moreover, the payers are required to implement, under the already established Patient Access API, laboratory results and other claims and encounter data, as well as information regarding a patient’s pending and active prior authorizations.
Payers must also communicate this data with a patient’s provider if asked, and with other payers, should a patient’s coverage or provider change. This will allow patients, providers, and payers to have all the necessary data when needed, automating the process and reducing the administrative burden on providers. As a result, providers will be less likely to work with incomplete health information and the likelihood of repeat prior authorization requests will decrease, resulting in more time the provider has to spend with the patient. Notably, Medicare Advantage plans are not included in this new rule and not subject to its requirements; however, CMS is continuing to consider whether Medicare Advantage plans should be included.
Under the rule, payers will have up to 72 hours to make prior authorizations on urgent requests, and seven calendar days for non-urgent requests. All payers obligated under the rule must provide an exact reason for any denial, giving providers increased transparency in the authorization process. To further encourage accountability, payers are also required to make public statistics related to prior authorizations that illustrate how the payer operates its prior authorization process.
The final rule will benefit patients as well; patients will have a better understanding of the prior authorization process, its timeline, and be able to better coordinate with their provider to properly plan for their healthcare needs. Patients will also have easier access to their health information and can take their information with them as they change plans.
For over 35 years, Wachler & Associates has represented healthcare providers and suppliers nationwide in a variety of health law matters, and our attorneys can assist providers and suppliers in understanding new developments in Medicare and other CMS rules and regulations. If you or your healthcare entity has any questions pertaining to healthcare compliance, please contact an experienced healthcare attorney at 248-544-0888 or firstname.lastname@example.org.