How payment integrity is evolving: Five questions with Chris Hajzak
If there’s one thing that Chris Hajzak has learned over the course of 15 years immersed in the payment integrity space, it’s that the industry is constantly evolving and improving. Here, Hajzak, President of Carelon Payment Integrity, talks about the evolution of payment integrity and how her focus today is not only on correcting payment integrity problems but also on preventing them in the first place.
Finding the best ROI
You’ve been involved with payment integrity since it first emerged as a healthcare tool. How have you seen it evolve over the past 15 years?
Payment integrity first existed as a clean-up function to help when there were operational errors. That evolved into a much broader capability where we can address a wide range of medical claim payment errors such as inaccurate coding, duplicate payments, and contractual mistakes. Health plans built out their internal programs and started to bring in vendors. This is where the payment integrity world exploded. When COVID-19 hit, the world started to shift because of cost pressures and the concerns of a recession.
Of course, payment integrity programs have always been under pressure to lower costs and increase ROI, but in the past few years, those priorities have become even more important. Payment integrity leaders still need to fight fraud, waste, and abuse, but they have to do so even more cost-effectively — while preserving valuable provider and member relationships and creating better accuracy and efficiency.
From reactive “point” solutions to end-to-end solutions
How is Carelon leading payment integrity innovation?
We’re breaking down the silos. Payment integrity has historically been focused on solving each problem individually with vended solutions, but the more optimal way for the ecosystem to work is as an integrated set of end-to-end solutions. At Carelon, we've been solving problems for health plans for many years. Our solutions aren’t point solutions, they’re end-to-end solutions, and that’s one of the reasons why we’re able to get such good results. We use analytics to find overpayments and then resolve them with automated operational workflows. We also create insights to identify the root causes of errors and partner with providers to prevent those errors in future claims.
We’re fortunate because we have such a large client base — serving over 40 health plans with more than 43 million members — that we get to solve the kind of problems that occur holistically across an entire ecosystem. Our integrated solutions allow us to mobilize the most effective solution for any given error.
Applying the right technology toward the right solutions
How does technology play into those capabilities and enhance them going forward?
Technology is the foundation of everything we do. It allows us to discover new types of errors that can't be identified by even the smartest human beings. It allows the sum of the parts to equal an exponential value beyond what we ever thought possible. Our technologies make it possible to solve problems that weren't solvable five years ago.
There are a lot of buzzwords out there: we talk about AI and machine learning. All these parts and pieces are fun to talk about, but the reality is they're only good if you can apply them in usable solutions. That’s the real value of what Carelon delivers — the integration of technical capabilities into real solutions.
Identifying and solving "hidden” problems
Do you have an example of a solution or product that embodies this approach?
Absolutely! One of them is Coordination of Benefits (COB) Consensus. This one solution has helped us save over $100 million for our clients, yet it's a problem most people don't even think they have. Every health plan does coordination of benefits, but it’s an area that can usually be improved. For most plans, COB is a highly manual, expensive, and complicated process. Payers find it difficult to effectively work “other health insurance” leads because they lack the necessary information, expertise, and technology.
We accelerate the identification of other health insurance coverage that members might have, and streamline the process of determining the responsible primary payer. As a result, leads can be processed faster, more accurately, and more efficiently. That means we can process an increased volume of leads and increase our clients’ return on investment. Then, our workflow tool prioritizes leads and escalates complex ones, separating cases that must be reviewed manually, ensuring resources are effectively utilized.
Getting it right the first time
Where is payment integrity headed?
Payment integrity is headed toward more integrated and transparent solutions that help the provider and the payer promote payment accuracy before a claim is submitted. A lot of errors happen because somebody accidentally didn't follow a rule — it's not intentional. When we create better transparency, we can break that cycle of claims being rejected or denied and reduce the stress on a plan’s relationship with providers.
With today's technology, we can solve problems so providers can bill more accurately, and payers can allow those claims to be paid accurately the first time. That makes for a better provider experience. Payment integrity can reduce rework, improve payer/provider relationships, and lower the overall cost of healthcare — and those savings can be passed to our members. That is a big part of payment integrity’s future.