Evaluating the Feasibility and Impact of Case Rate Payment for Recovery Support Navigator Services: A Mixed Methods Study
Acute 24-h detoxification services (detox) are necessary but insufficient for many individuals working towards long-term recovery from opiate, alcohol or other drug addiction. Longer engagement in substance use disorder (SUD) treatment can lead to better health outcomes and reductions in overall healthcare costs. Connecting individuals with post-detox SUD treatment and supportive services is a vital next step. Toward this end, the Massachusetts Medicaid program reimburses Community Support Program staff (CSPs) to facilitate these connections. CSP support services are typically paid on a units-of-service basis. As part of a larger study testing health care innovations, one large Medicaid insurer developed a new cadre of workers, called Recovery Support Navigators (RSNs). RSNs performed similar tasks to CSPs but received more extensive training and coaching and were paid an experimental case rate (a flat negotiated reimbursement). This sub-study evaluates the feasibility and impact of case rate payments for RSN services as compared to CSP services paid fee-for-service.
This study analyzed claims data and RSN service data for a segment of the Massachusetts Medicaid population who had more than one detox admission in the last year and also engaged in post-discharge CSP or RSN services. Qualitative data from key informant interviews and Learning Collaboratives with CSPs and RSNs supplemented the findings.
Clients receiving RSN services under the case rate utilized the service significantly longer than clients receiving CSP services under unit-based billing. This resulted in a lower average cost per member per month for RSN clients. However, when calculating total SUD treatment costs per member, RSN client costs were 50% higher than CSP client costs. Provider organizations employing RSNs successfully implemented case rate billing. Benefits included allowing time for outreach efforts and training and coaching, activities not paid under the unit-based system. Yet, RSNs identified staffing and larger systems level challenges to consider when using a case rate payment model.
Addiction is a chronic disease that requires long-term investments. Case rate billing offers a promising option for payers and providers as it promotes continued engagement with service providers. To fully realize the benefits of case rate billing, however, larger systems level changes are needed.