The Extent and Growth of Prior Authorization in Medicare Advantage

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Abstract

OBJECTIVES: To assess trends in the use of prior authorization requirements among Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. STUDY DESIGN: Descriptive quantitative analysis. METHODS: Data were from the CMS MA benefit and enrollment files for 2009-2019, supplemented with area-level data on demographic and provider market characteristics. For each service category, we calculated the annual share of MA enrollees in plans requiring at least some prior authorization and plotted trends over time. We mapped the county-level share of MA enrollees exposed to prior authorization in 2009 vs 2019. We quantified the association between local share of MA enrollees exposed to prior authorization and characteristics of that county in the same year. Finally, we plotted the share of MA enrollees exposed to prior authorization requirements over time for the 6 largest MA carriers. RESULTS: From 2009 to 2019, the share of MA enrollees in plans requiring prior authorization for any service remained stable. By service category, the share of MA enrollees exposed to prior authorization ranged from 30.7% (physician specialist services) to 72.2% (durable medical equipment) in 2019, with most service categories requiring prior authorization more often over time. Several area-level demographic and provider market characteristics were associated with prior authorization requirements, but these associations weakened over time. The use of prior authorization varied widely across plans. CONCLUSIONS: In 2019, roughly 3 in 4 MA enrollees were in a plan requiring prior authorization. Service-level, area-level, and carrier-level patterns suggest a wide range of approaches to prior authorization requirements.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E85-E92
JournalAmerican Journal of Managed Care
Volume30
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2024

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