Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Healthways and CMS Shakes Hands. Is a Phase II Next?

Healthways and CMS have signed an "Amendment" which 'changes the financial performance target for both its Initial Cohort and Refresh Cohort to budget neutrality from 5.0% net savings and 2.5% net savings, respectively.' The Disease Management Care Blog checked the CMS web site for more info. Finding none, it listened in on a recording of the May 6 Healthways Investor Relations web cast.

As the DMCB understands it, a new analysis of a 'refresh cohort' consisting of approximately 4000 enrollees with just chronic heart failure shows the company is within reach of achieving budget neutrality. They feel it is possible that in the remaining months, they can demonstrate an additional $3-$4 hundred thousand in savings and get from 93% of fees to 100%. If they reach it, they note that the original legislation requires the Secretary of HHS to launch Phase II because (and this was read out loud during the call):

"With respect to chronic care improvement programs conducted under subsection (b), if the Secretary finds that the results of the independent evaluation conducted under subsection (b)(6) indicate that the conditions specified in paragraph (2) have been met by a program (or components of such program), the Secretary shall enter into agreements consistent with subsection (f) to expand the implementation of the program (or components) to additional geographic areas not covered under the program as conducted under subsection (b), which may include the implementation of the program on a national basis.

special emphasis on 'a program' not all programs.

Because of the budget neutrality agreement, Healthways has been able to recognize $5.2 million of revenue that was otherwise tied up in its Medicare Health Support pilot. Guess what they are doing with this money? Instead of letting it flow into the company's bottom line, they are using it to disperse bonuses to the 'colleague' employees who are working in the MHS Program.

Does anyone have any doubt that the colleagues are going to work hard in the coming months to achieve the neutrality? Einstein has been quoted as saying the two most powerful forces in the Universe are gravity and compounding interest. From previous experience, the DMCB knows a 3rd force is nurses. It also knows of all the chronic illnesses, heart failure is probably the most amenable to efforts to decrease inpatient utilization.

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