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The 1, 2, 3s of establishing your PMO priorities

09.18.20

Read this if you or your government agency may be interested in project management or a project management office.

You may think that PMO stands for Project Management Office, Program Management Office, or Portfolio Management Office, and you would be correct. However, when establishing your PMO priorities, think:
1.    P – Planning and Processes
2.    M – Motivation
3.    O – Operations

Determining where your organization will focus your efforts is fundamental to the successful functioning of the PMO, whether the PMO is well established or just getting started. With multiple competing projects and initiatives, spending some time planning and developing your PMO priorities in the short term will save you time and effort moving forward. 

According to the Project Management Institute’s (PMI’s) research, they reported that "aligning projects and strategic objectives has the greatest potential to add value to an organization.” 

The “value” here must be determined by each organization, but through establishing your PMO priorities early, you promote a culture of project management in order to gain greater experience in project management practices and personnel. This allows for more efficient processes, more focused and flexible project managers, greater scope, schedule, and budgetary control, and ultimately more successful projects implemented.

Planning and processes

The first step in establishing the priorities for your PMO requires planning and evaluating existing processes. Identifying all projects for the upcoming year is an excellent place to start. For each project or initiative, you will want to pull together information that will assist you in the prioritization process. This may include items such as type of project, expected outcomes, aligned strategic objective(s), targeted length of the project, targeted start date, funding sources, types of approvals needed, resource capacity, and risk versus reward analysis. Each organization can make the determination of what kind of information is necessary in this step to make prioritization more streamlined and specific to their current structure and processes.

As new team members enter and exit project work, there is a risk that knowledge transfer of the PMO processes get lost, or deviations in processes begin to occur. PMI notes “high-performing organizations succeed through a strategic focus on people, processes, and outcomes” and 74% of these high-performing organizations are supported by a PMO. Taking the opportunity for continuous process improvement―to review and share the PMO processes and templates with the organization on a reoccurring basis―helps to ensure consistency across programs within the organization. With consistency comes efficiency, allowing your project teams to focus on the work at hand, and not recreate processes. Consistency and efficiency will help streamline administrative activities, improve resource estimates, and increase the likelihood that projects will come in on time and on budget.

Motivation 

The second step in establishing PMO priorities is motivation. Having a working knowledge of your organization will help in this step―knowing what excites or drives them to succeed. Motivating factors may vary for different organizations. For example, if you’re a government entity, the deciding factor in priority may be a legislative mandate. Early identification of your organization’s motivating factors allows you to expedite the prioritization efforts and increase planning time for high-priority projects, including aligning resources sooner. Here are a few ideas to consider when thinking about finding what motivates people in your organization:

  • Durations/meeting timeframes
  • Legislation/mandates
  • Strategic plans and goals
  • Recognition
  • Policy
  • Outcomes/potential impacts
  • Level of risk
  • Return on Investment (ROI)

Operations

The third step in establishing PMO priorities is operations. By outlining operational aspects of the projects before establishing your PMO priorities, you can see the big picture and organizational strategy. Per PMI, organizations which “align their PMO to strategy report 38% more projects meet the original goals and business intent, while 33% fewer projects are deemed as failures.” This allows you to understand dependencies between projects, identify possible duplication or gaps, and plan for resources earlier. Below are a few examples to consider with this step:

  • High-level strategy (will the work be delivered in phases or at the end of the project)
  • Approximate Full-Time Equivalents (FTEs) required
  • Skill level needed for the resources
  • Organizational charts and reporting relationships
  • Approximate cost for the project/initiative

Now that you are aware of the three steps―planning and processes, motivation, and operations, you are ready to begin establishing your PMO priorities. Evaluating all three steps helps ensure you’ve considered everything before prioritizing the work, although some items may clearly have more weight than others. There is no magic formula for establishing PMO priorities, and given the same projects, different organizations would have different priorities. One organization may define and identify project work as high, medium, or low, while another PMO may number projects, with number one being the first project to start. Either way is right. 

The important take-away is for your PMO to develop a consistent methodology as you are establishing priorities now and in the future. 

Does your organization need help establishing your PMO processes, prioritizing, or developing strategic plans? Contact our Medicaid Consulting team for more information on how we can help.

Resources cited

Project Management Institute. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession: The High Cost of Low Performance. PMI.org. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2014.pdf?v=eb9b1ac0-8cad-457f-81ec-b09dbb969a38 
Project Management Institute. PMI’s Pulse of the Profession – 9th Global Project Management Survey: Success Rates Rise – Transforming the High Cost of Low Performance. PMI.org. Accessed July 8, 2020. https://www.pmi.org/-/media/pmi/documents/public/pdf/learning/thought-leadership/pulse/pulse-of-the-profession-2017.pdf 

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Read this if your agency is planning to procure a services vendor.

In our previous article, we looked at three primary areas we, or a potential vendor, consider when responding to a request for services. In this follow-up, we look at additional factors that influence the decision-making process on whether a potential vendor decides to respond to a request for services.

  • Relationship with this state/entity―Is this a state or client that we have worked with before? Do we understand their business and their needs?

    A continuing relationship allows us to understand the client’s culture and enables us to perform effectively and efficiently. By establishing a good relationship, we can assure the client that we can perform the services as outlined and at a fair cost.
  • Terms and conditions, performance bonds, or service level agreements―Are any of these items unacceptable? If there are concerns, can we request exceptions or negotiate with the state?

    When we review a request for services our legal and executive teams assess the risk of agreeing to the state’s terms and compare them against our existing contract language. States might consider requesting vendors provide exceptions to terms and conditions in their bid response to open the door for negotiations. Not allowing exceptions can result in vendors assuming that all terms are non-negotiable and may limit the amount of vendor bid responses received or increase the cost of the proposal.

    The inclusion of well-defined service level agreements (SLAs) in requests for proposals (RFPs) can be an effective way to manage resulting contracts. However, SLAs with undefined or punitive performance standards, compliance calculations, and remedies can also cause a vendor to consider whether to submit a bid response.

    RFPs for states that require performance bonds may result in significantly fewer proposals submitted, as the cost of a performance bond may make the total cost of the project too high to be successfully completed. If not required by law that vendors obtain performance bonds, states may want to explore other effective contractual protections that are more impactful than performance bonds, such as SLAs, warranties, and acceptance criteria.
  • Mandatory requirements―Are we able to meet the mandatory requirements? Does the cost of meeting these requirements keep us in a competitive range?

    Understanding the dichotomy between mandatory requirements and terms and conditions can be challenging, because in essence, mandatory requirements are non-negotiable terms and conditions. A state may consider organizing mandatory requirements into categories (e.g., system requirements, project requirements, state and federal regulations). This can help potential vendors determine whether all of the mandatory requirements are truly non-negotiable. Typically, vendors are prepared to meet all regulatory requirements, but not necessarily all project requirements.
  • Onsite/offsite requirements―Can we meet the onsite/offsite requirements? Do we already have nearby resources available? Are any location requirements negotiable?

    Onsite/offsite requirements have a direct impact on the project cost. Factors include accessibility of the onsite location, frequency of required onsite participation, and what positions/roles are required to be onsite or local. These requirements can make the resource pool much smaller when RFPs require staff to be located in the state office or require full-time onsite presence. And as a result, we may decide not to respond to the RFP.

    If the state specifies an onsite presence for general positions (e.g., project managers and business analysts), but is more flexible on onsite requirements for technical niche roles, the state may receive more responses to their request for services and/or more qualified consultants.
  • Due date of the proposal―Do we have the available proposal staff and subject matter experts to complete a quality proposal in the time given?

    We consider several factors when looking at the due date, including scope, the amount of work necessary to complete a quality response, and the proposal’s due date. A proposal with a very short due date that requires significant work presents a challenge and may result in less quality responses received.
  • Vendor available staffing―Do we have qualified staff available for this project? Do we need to work with subcontractors to get a complete team?

    We evaluate when the work is scheduled to begin to ensure we have the ability to provide qualified staff and obtain agreements with subcontractors. Overly strict qualifications that narrow the pool of qualified staff can affect whether we are able to respond. A state might consider whether key staff really needs a specific certification or skill or, instead, the proven ability to do the required work.

    For example, technical staff may not have worked on this particular type of project, but on a similar one with easily transferable skills. We have several long-term relationships with our subcontractors and find they can be an integral part of the services we propose. If carefully managed and vetted, we feel subcontractors can be an added value for the states.
  • Required certifications (e.g., Project Management Professional® (PMP®), Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) certification)―Does our staff have the required certifications that are needed to complete this project?

    Many projects requests require specific certifications. On a small project, maybe other certifications can help ensure that we have the skills required for a successful project. Smaller vendors, particularly, might not have PMP®-certified staff and so may be prohibited from proposing on a project that they could perform with high quality.
  • Project timeline―Is the timeline to complete the project reasonable and is our staff available during the timeframe needed for each position for the length of the project?

    A realistic and reasonable timeline is critical for the success of a project. This is a factor we consider as we identify any clear or potential risks. A qualified vendor will not provide a proposal response to an unrealistic project timeline, without requesting either to negotiate the contract or requesting a change order later in the project. If the timeline is unrealistic, the state also runs the risk that the vendor will create many change requests, leading to a higher cost.

Other things we consider when responding to a request for services include: is there a reasonable published budget, what are the minority/women-owned business (M/WBE) requirements, and are these new services that we are interested in and do they fit within our company's overall business objectives?

Every vendor may have their own checklist and/or process that they go through before making a decision to propose on new services. We are aware that states and their agencies want a wide-variety of high-quality responses from which to choose. Understanding the key areas that a proposer evaluates may help states provide requirements that lead to more high-quality and better value proposals. If you would like to learn more about our process, or have specific questions, please contact the Medicaid Consulting team.

Article
What vendors want: Other factors that influence vendors when considering responding to a request for services

Read this if your agency is planning to procure a services vendor. 

Every published request for services aims to acquire the highest-quality services for the best value. Requests may be as simple as an email to a qualified vendor list or as formal as a request for proposal (RFP) published on a state’s procurement website. However big or small the request, upon receiving it, we, or a potential vendor, triages it using the following primary criteria:

  1. Scope of services―Are these services or solutions we can provide? If we can’t provide the entire scope of services, do we have partners that can?
    As a potential responding vendor, we review the scope of services to see if it is clearly defined and provides enough detail to help us make a decision to pursue the proposal. Part of this review is to check if there are specific requests for products or solutions, and if the requests are for products or solutions that we provide or that we can easily procure to support the scope of work. 
  2. Qualifications―What are the requirements and can we meet them?
    We verify that we can supply proofs of concept to validate experience and qualification requirements. We check to see if the requirements and required services/solutions are clearly defined and we confirm that we have the proof of experience to show the client. Strict or inflexible requirements may mean a new vendor is unable to propose new and innovative services and may not be the right fit.
  3. Value―Is this a service request that we can add value to? Will it provide fair compensation?
    We look to see if we can perform the services or provide the solution at a rate that meets the client’s budget. Sometimes, depending upon the scope of services, we can provide services at a rate typically lower than our competitors. Or, conversely, though we can perform the scope of services, the software/hardware we would have to purchase might make our cost lower in value to the client than a well-positioned competitor.

An answer of “no” on any of the above questions typically means that we will pass on responding to the opportunity. 

The above questions are primary considerations. There are other factors when we consider an opportunity, such as where the work is located in comparison to our available resources and if there is an incumbent vendor with a solid and successful history. We will consider these and other factors in our next article. If you would like to learn more about our process, or have specific questions, please contact the Medicaid Consulting team.
 

Article
What vendors want: Vendor decision process in answering requests for services

Read this if you are a State Medicaid Director, State Medicaid Chief Information Officer, State Medicaid Project Manager, or State Procurement Officer—or if you work on a State Medicaid Enterprise System (MES) certification or modernization efforts.

You can listen to the companion podcast to this article now:


Over the last two years, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has undertaken an effort to streamline Medicaid Enterprise System (MES) certification. During this time, we have been fortunate enough to have been a trusted partner in several states working to evolve the certification process. Through this collaboration with CMS and state partners, we have been in front of recent certification trends. 

What is outcomes-based certification (OBC)? 

OBC (or streamlined modular certification) is a fascinating evolution in MES certification. OBC represents a fundamental rethinking of certification and how we measure the success of system implementation and modernization efforts. The prior certification approach, as many know it, is centrally focused on technical capability, answering the question, “Can the system perform the required functions?” 

OBC represents a shift away from this technical certification and toward business process improvement, instead answering the question, “How is this new technology enhancing the Medicaid program?” Or, put differently, “Is this new technology helping my Medicaid program achieve its desired outcomes?” 

What are the key differences between the MECT and OBC? 

To understand the differences, we have to first talk about what isn’t changing. Technical criteria still exist, but only so far as CMS is confirming compliance with core regulatory and statutory requirements—including CMS’ Standards and Conditions. That’s about the extent of the similarities. In addition to pivoting to business process improvement, we understand that CMS is looking to generalize certification under this new approach, meaning that we wouldn’t see the same Medicaid Information Technology Architecture (MITA)-tied checklists like Provider Management, or Decision Support Systems. Instead, we might expect more generalized guidance that would allow for a more tailored certification. 

Additionally, OBC introduces outcomes statements which serve as the guiding principles for certification. Everything, including the technical criteria, roll-up into an outcome statement. This type of roll up might actually feel familiar, as we see a similar structure in how Medicaid Enterprise Certification Toolkit (MECT) criteria rolled up into critical success factors. 

The biggest difference, and the one states need to understand above all else, is the use of key performance indicators (KPIs). These KPIs aren’t just point-in-time certification measures, they are expected to be reported against regularly—say, quarterly—in order to maintain enhanced funding. Additionally, it’s likely that each criterion will have an associated KPI, meaning that states will continue to be accountable to these criteria long after the Certification Final Review. 

How are KPIs developed? 

We’ve seen KPIs developed in two ways. For more strategic, high level KPIs, CMS develops a baseline set of KPIs heading into collaborating with a state on an OBC effort. In these instances, CMS has historically sought input on whether those KPIs are reasonable and can be easily reported against. CMS articulates what it wants to measure conceptually, and works with a state to ensure that the KPI achieves that within the scope of a state’s program.  

For KPIs specific to a state’s Medicaid program, CMS engages with states to draft new KPIs. In these instances, we’ve seen CMS partner with states to understand the business need for the new system, how it fits into the Medicaid enterprise, and what the desired outcome of the particular approach is. 

What should states consider as they plan for MES procurements? 

While there might be many considerations pertaining to OBC and procurements, two are integral to success. First—as CMS noted in the virtual MESC session earlier this month—engage CMS at the idea stage of a project. Experience tells us that CMS is ready and willing to collaborate with—and incorporate the needs of—states that engage at this idea stage. That early collaboration will help shape the certification path. 

Second, consider program outcomes when conceptualizing the procurement. Keep these outcomes central to base procurement language, requirements, and service level agreements. We’re likely to see the need for states to incorporate these outcomes into contracts. 

What does this mean for MES modularity and scalability? 

Based on our current understanding of the generalization of certification, states, and subsequently the industry at large, will continue to refine what modularity means based on Medicaid program needs. Scalability represents an interesting question, as we’ve seen OBC scaled horizontally across smaller, discrete business areas like pharmacy or provider management. Now we’re seeing the beginnings of vertical scaling of a more streamlined certification approach to larger components of the enterprise, such as financial management and claims processing. 

The certification landscape is seemingly changing weekly as states wait eagerly for CMS’ next guidance issuances. Please continue to check back for in-depth analyses and OBC success stories. Additionally, if you are considering an OBC effort and have questions, please contact our Medicaid Consulting team

Article
Considerations for outcomes-based certification

Read this if you are a member of a State Medicaid Agency’s leadership team.

Monday’s NESCSO-hosted conversation was a breath of fresh air in our COVID-19 work-from-home experience. Seeing familiar faces presenting from their home offices reminded me that, yes, we are truly all in this together—working remotely, and focused on how best to foster an efficient and effective Medicaid program for our state clients and members. Over the past several years I have written a “Reflections” blog, summarizing the week-long MESC event while flying home. Today, I am posting my reflections on the first forum NESCSO sponsored in lieu of their August conference that was cancelled this year due to the global pandemic. Following are my major takeaways.

The main speakers were Karen Shields, Deputy Director from the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services, and Julie Boughn, Director, Data Systems Group also for the Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services. There were several other guests that joined in this two-hour forum, some from the Data Systems Group, and some from the states.

Crisis as a learning tool

Karen Shields reinforced that we will be better and stronger as a result of the crisis that faces us, and encourages us to use the current crisis as a learning tool. She stressed the importance of how we are leveraging our creativity and innovation to keep moving forward. She said to start with the end in mind, be a team player, and keep in mind these three important points of focus for CMS:

  1. Share what works, share what doesn’t. Prioritize.
  2. Systems development needs to be agile. Partnership is critical. States needs to be “elbow deep” with others. Everyone is allowed to speak. 
  3. Re-usability is key! Push back on those who say we cannot reuse.

During the Q&A session, Karen discussed how to maintain consistency by turning to action and using lessons learned. Resist the urge to “fall back.” Let’s keep moving forward. She underscored how they will continue the all-state calls as there are lots of topics and conversations needed to explore deficits of need. 

Support systems and policies

Julie Boughn opened by stressing what an important layer of support systems provide policies. She said COVID is not a system issue—the systems supporting the approach to address the virus are working and a big part of contributing to helping alleviate the issues the pandemic presents. She noted an appropriate quip that “Without systems, policies are just interesting ideas on pieces of paper.”

She underscored that healthcare and all that goes with supporting it is never static. The Medicaid arena is in a world of increasing change, requiring the supporting systems to adapt to make payments correctly and facilitate the provision of benefits to the right people. CMS has been focused on, and continues to bring our focus to outcomes, especially in the IT investments being made. Promote sharing and re-use of those investments.

During the Q&A, Julie reinforced the priority on outcomes and spoke to outcomes-based certification (OBC). There was a question on “What happens to modularity in the context of OBC?” She said that they are completely compatible and naturally modular, and to think about how a house can be built but not be completely done. Build the house in chunks of work, and know what you’re achieving with each “chunk”. Outcomes are behind everything we do.

Engage with your federal partners

In the next presentation, CMS modeled a dialogue that demonstrated how states can engage with their federal partners. CMS wants to continue changing the relationship they have with states. They also reminded the audience of what CMS is looking for; as Ed Dolly, the Director for the Division of State Systems within the Data and Systems Group said during the conversation, “Do you understand the problem trying to be solved?” Define your final outcome, and understand that incremental change drives value. In addition to communicating the problem, focus on speed of delivery (timeliness), and engage in back and forth exchange on what best measures can be used, as well as the abilities to capture the measures to report progress. The bottom line?  “When in doubt, reach out!”

The remainder of the forum featured representatives from the State System Technology Advisory Group (S-TAG), Private Sector Technology Group (PSTG), and Human Services Information Technology IT Advisory Group (HSITAG). They discussed a variety of IT topics.

Technology outlook

The S-TAG had representation from an impressive list of states—West Virginia, Washington, Wyoming, Vermont, and Massachusetts. They spoke to how they envision their technology response to changes in policy now and in the next 12-18 months. There was too much to present here, and I recommend reviewing the recording once NESCSO posts it. Initiatives included: Provider enrollment, electronic asset verification, electronic visit verification, integrated eligibility systems, modularity implementations, migration to the cloud, pharmacy systems, system integrator, certification, strategic planning, electronic data interchange upgrades, payment reform, road map activities, case management, care management, T-MSIS, and HITECH.

HSITAG spoke about the view across the health and human services spectrum—Where are we today? Where will we be tomorrow? COVID has tested our IT infrastructure and policy. Is there an ability to quickly scale up? Weaknesses in interoperability became exposed and while it seemed Medicaid was spared in the headlines, the need to modernize is now much more apparent. Modularity showed its value in more timely implementations. There is concern over an upcoming increase in the Medicaid population. Are we equipped for the short term?

For the long-run, where we will be “tomorrow” in the 12-18 month view, there will be a bigger dependency on the interrelations between all programs. Medicaid Enterprise Systems can and should look at whole systems, focusing on social determinants of health. Data and program integrity will be key, as the increased potential of fraud in the midst of challenging state budgets. We will need to respond quickly with limited resources.

Keep relationships strong

PSTG spoke of how when COVID hit, it caused them, like the rest of us, to modify their goals. They spoke about relationships and the importance of maintaining them with clients and colleagues, questions of productivity, what things that we have learned will we carry into the post-pandemic era, will we remain flexible, and how will we “unwind” all the related changes that will not be carried forward. Looking forward, PSTG wants to support the growing of the outcomes-based culture, evolve the state self-assessment (currently an active workgroup), and how to be less prescriptive to allow for more flexibility on “how” vendors get to solutions.

I was grateful to be able to join this event, and hear that we are in this together—we will get through it and we will keep moving forward. I felt this was a good start to what I hope will be the first of many MESC 2020 forums. The session felt like it ended too quickly even though we covered a lot of ground. I am excited about the thought of hearing about new ideas, improving our understanding of upcoming changes CMS is sponsoring, and engaging in the innovative thought that will keep us moving toward a better tomorrow. Thanks to NESCSO for sponsoring this event and bringing us together.

Please contact our Medicaid Consulting team for more information on if you have any questions.

Article
MESC 2020: Where we are today and where we will be tomorrow

Read this if you use, manage, or procure public safety and corrections technology.

Recently we discussed the benefits of developing a strong, succinct Request for Proposal (RFP) that attracts Offender Management Systems (OMS) vendors through a competitive solicitation. Conversely, we explored the advantages and disadvantages of leading a non-competitive solicitation. Industry standards and best practices serve as the common thread between competitive and non-competitive solicitations for standard implementations. So, how does an agency prepare to navigate the nuances and avoid the “gotchas” of a non-standard implementation in the corrections realm?

Functional areas in the corrections industry exist in an ever-evolving state. The ongoing functional area refinements serve to overcome potential gaps between standardizing organizations (e.g., CTA, APPA) and your agency’s operations. For example, CTA does not distinguish incidents from disciplines as distinct functional areas. While merging workflows for incidents and disciplines may align with one agency’s practice, your agency may not always correlate the two functions (e.g., disciplinary action might not always result from an incident). Moreover, your agency may not have a need for every functional area, such as community corrections, depending on the scale of your operation.

Your agency should view the industry standards as a guide rather than the source of truth, which helps you cultivate a less parochial approach driven solely by standards and follow instead a more pragmatic plan, comprised of your unique operations and best practices. CTA and APPA specifications alone will result in comprehensive solicitation. For that reason, agencies can enhance an OMS modernization initiative by enhancing solicitation requirements to include jurisdictional specifications resulting from interviews with end-users and policy research. 

Upcoming OMS webinar

On Thursday, November 5, our consulting team will host a webinar on navigating a solicitation for a new OMS. During the webinar, our team will revisit the benefits of an independent third-party on your solicitation and review industry standards, and will discuss:

  1. Crafting requirements that address common OMS functions, as well as jurisdiction-specific functions (i.e., those that address the unique statutes of the state). Crafting requirements helps your agency to ensure a replacement system addresses core business functions, provides a modern technical infrastructure, and complies with local, state, and federal regulations.
  2. Thriving with a collaborative approach when acquiring and implementing an OMS system, helping to ensure all stakeholders not only participate in the project but also buy into the critical success factors.

If you have questions about your specific situation with OMS implementations, or would like to receive more information about the webinar, please contact one of our public safety consultants.
 

Article
Managing non-standard Offender Management System (OMS) implementations

Read this if you are a state Medicaid agency, state managed care office, or managed care organization (MCO). 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting economic downturn has led to increased Medicaid member enrollment and has placed a strain on state budgets to support Medicaid and other health and human services programs. It has also impacted traditional Medicaid utilization patterns and has challenged provider reimbursement models, forcing managed care programs and supporting MCOs to:

  • rethink the control of program costs, 
  • seek MCO program flexibilities to expand coverage such as telehealth, and 
  • make operational changes to support their growing member populations.

Managed care opportunities

While COVID-19 has created many challenges, at the same time it has given managed care programs the opportunity to restructure their delivery of services not only during the public health emergency, but for the longer term. Flexibilities sought this year from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) put in place through waivers and state plan amendments have helped expand services in areas such as the delivery of COVID-19 testing, medical supplies, and behavioral health services via telehealth. 

These flexibilities have relieved the administrative burden on Medicaid programs, such as performance and reporting requirements outlined under federal law and 42 CFR §438. Although these flexibilities have helped managed care programs expand services during the pandemic, the benefits are temporary and will require MCOs to make programmatic changes to meet the demands of its population during and after the public health emergency.

A recent study by Families USA cited 38 states reporting 7% growth in member enrollment since February. As the Medicaid population continues to grow in 2020 and beyond, managed care programs have numerous opportunities to consider: 

Managing care coordination and establishing efficiencies with home- and community-based services (HCBS)

The increased risk of adverse health outcomes from COVID-19 due to older age and chronic illness, and the demands on providers and medical supplies, has forced Medicaid programs to seek waiver flexibilities to expand HCBS. As part of HCBS delivery, MCOs may focus on the sickest and most costly of their member populations to control costs and preserve quality. 

MCOs will most likely monitor cost drivers such as chronic conditions, catastrophic health events, and frequent visits to primary care providers and hospitals. MCOs have the opportunity to establish efficiencies and improve transitions across different providers and multiple conditions to better manage the over-utilization of services for members in skilled nursing facilities, and for those who receive HCBS and outpatient services.

Adjusting and monitoring Value-Based Payment (VBP) models

With the continued transition to VBP models, Medicaid programs face the challenge of added costs and adapting plan operations and services to address pandemic-related needs, chronic conditions, and comorbidities. 

Building on the latest guidance to state Medicaid directors from CMS on value-based care, Medicaid programs can look at COVID-19 impacts on provider reimbursement prior to the rollout of VBP models. Medicaid programs can continue establishing payment models that improve health outcomes, quality, and member experience. States can adjust contracts and adherence to local and state public health priorities and national quality measures to advance their VBP strategy. Managed care programs may need to consider a phased rollout of their VBP models to build buy-in from providers transitioning from traditional fee-for-services payment models, and to allow for refinements to current VBP models.

Continued stratification and the assessment of risk

By analyzing COVID-19’s impact on the quality of care and member experience, improved outcomes, and member and program costs, managed care programs can improve their population stratification methodologies factoring as population demographic analysis, social determinants of health, and health status. Adjustments to risk stratification during and after the COVID-19 pandemic will inform the development of provider networks, provider payment models, and services. Taking into account new patterns of utilization across its member population, managed care programs may need to refine their risk adjustment models to determine the sickest and most costly of their populations to project costs and improve the delivery of services and coordination of care for Medicaid members.

Telehealth

As providers transition back to their traditional structures, MCOs can continue to expand telehealth to improve service delivery and to control costs. Part of this expansion will require MCOs to balance the mentioned benefits of the telehealth model with the risk of over-utilization of telehealth services that can lead to inefficiencies and increased managed care program costs. In addition, because of the loosening of federal restrictions on telehealth, managed care programs will most likely want to update program integrity safeguards to reduce the risk of fraud, waste, and abuse in areas such as provider credentialing, personal identifiable information (PII), privacy and security protocols, member consent, patient examinations, and remote prescriptions. 

Continued focus on data improvement and encounter data quality

Encounter data quality and data improvement initiatives will be critical to successfully administer a managed care program. As encounter data drives capitation rates for MCOs, a continued focus on encounter data quality will likely enable Medicaid programs to better leverage actuarial services to establish sound and adequate managed care program rates, better aligning financial incentives and payments to their MCOs. 

States have pursued a number of flexibilities to establish a short-term framework to support their managed care programs during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the current expansion of services and the need for MCOs to rapidly identify additional areas for operational improvements during the pandemic have allowed Medicaid programs to further analyze longer-term needs of the populations they serve. These developments have also helped programs increase their range of services, to expand and manage their provider networks, and to mature their provider payment models. 

If you would like more information or have questions about opportunities for adjustments to your managed care program, please contact MedicaidConsulting@BerryDunn.com. We’re here to help.
 

Article
COVID-19 and opportunities to reboot managed care

Read this if you are a member of a State Medicaid Agency’s leadership team or Program Integrity (PI) unit. 

In March 2020, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suspended PERM cycle activities in response to Secretary Azar’s public health emergency (PHE) declaration. The suspension of the PERM cycle activities provided states with an opportunity to direct resources to the state’s PHE response. In August 2020, CMS released the suspension of PERM cycle activities to allow CMS and states to complete the PERM cycles that were either in progress or in the process of starting up.

While the PERM cycle suspension was in place, CMS released an updated PERM Manual in May 2020. You can access the updated PERM Manual here. The update primarily consists of the addition of guidelines related to the return of the eligibility reviews to the PERM cycle, as defined in the PERM Final Rule published by CMS in July 2017. The manual updates include adding regulation on the CMS Eligibility Review Contractor (ERC) to perform the eligibility reviews. 

Another topic receiving significant updates in the manual was the sample guidelines. Some of the updates included:

  • Sampling units related to Third-Party Liability (TPL)
  • CMS and its contractors must be granted systems access for the review process
  • Sampling timeframes updated for each cycle

There are more updates in the manual, which states will not want to miss. BerryDunn has prepared a summary of the updates included in CMS’ May 2020 release of the PERM manual. View the summary.

While state resources are busy addressing the current PHE, the states should be tracking and documenting waiver activity, as many of the flexibilities provided by waivers will expire at the end of the PHE or soon after. Provider claims for services rendered during the PHE are eligible for the PERM cycle review, and states will need to give the PERM reviewers the flexibilities honored by the state. 

For questions or to find out more information about the PERM Cycle, contact Dawn Webb

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Keeping the PERM Manual update in focus during the PHE

Read this if you use, manage, or procure public safety and corrections technology. 

In our previous post, we discussed the link between developing a technology RFP with meaning, structure, and clarity to enhance the competitive nature of the solicitation. In this article, we ask: How can your agency synthesize and unify existing business processes with industry standards to attract modern OMS providers? The answer? Your agency crosswalks. 

Industry standards, such as those set by the Corrections Technology Association (CTA) and American Probation and Parole Association (APPA), establish the benchmark for modern operations. However, legacy correction software limitations often blur the one-to-one relationship with industry standards. For that reason, crosswalk tools help agencies map current process into industry-wide standards.

CTA Functional Areas

Corrections Technology Association Functional Areas

Agencies crosswalk in preparation for a corrections technology procurement to help align system requirements with commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) corrections management systems. In revisiting the topics of clarity, meaning, and structure, the crosswalk helps technology vendors understand your current operations, the tools your currently use to support the operations, and the way in which those operations relate to industry functional areas.

In an iterative fashion, the CTA crosswalk first helps you understand your agency’s technology and operational structure, and then communicates system requirements to correction technology providers in an industry-led framework. The approach helps you transition from your legacy processes to your new operational environment.

Although your agency can engage the market with a meaningful, structured, and clear RFP, prequalification and contract vehicles provide a viable alternative of enhancement to procuring a new offender management system. The following advantages and disadvantages can inform your agency’s decision to use a prequalification vehicle.

Advantages:

  1. Non-competitive procurement can often be accomplished more quickly given the absence of the timeframe usually dedicated to the development of the RFP, posting to potential vendors, and evaluation of proposals.
  2. Reduced uncertainties in terms of what a vendor is able to provide since an open dialog starts immediately.
  3. Competitive procurement (secondary competition) under a contract vehicle is limited to the vendors who proposed and were awarded. Only higher performing vendors are likely to be able to respond, particularly if only certain vendors are selected from the list.
  4. Potentially better pricing as a vendor can eliminate unknowns through open communication, so less risk is priced into the proposal.
  5. A better environment around requested changes, as a vendor that has maintained a certain margin in their pricing may be more amenable to no-cost change orders.

Disadvantages:

  1. The agency loses some negotiating advantage when a vendor knows they are the only ones in the procurement conversation. 
  2. A vendor may have less incentive to “put their best foot forward” and offer higher levels of service and functionality.
  3. Competitive cost may not be obtained because the vendor doesn’t have to worry about beating a competitor.
  4. Secondary competition may take a somewhat similar timeframe because the solicitation, evaluation, and award processes take a similar amount of time to an RFP for larger projects.

The trajectory to develop an RFP for new corrections management software spans assessing existing operations and technology to including mapping current operations into industry standards clarity. At the same time your agency should consider the driving and constraining factors for using a prequalification or contract vehicle.

BerryDunn has experience with cross-walking agencies into industry-leading practices, and we also understand the need for non-standard RFPs that extend beyond CTA and APPA guidelines. Reach out to our public safety consultants if you have questions, or look out for our next blog providing insight on adapting to and overlapping challenges in non-standard corrections technology procurements.

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Leveraging industry standards to optimize Offender Management Systems (OMS)