For the First Time, CMS Releases Key Metrics on WCMSA Review Program

November 9, 2022

person pointing out metrics on a posterboard to measure Medicare Set Aside

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released data that provides insight into its Workers’ Compensation Medicare Set-Aside (WCMSA) reviews.  This is the first time CMS has released such detailed metrics.

CMS shared statistics for a 3-year period of 2020 through 2022 (CMS’s fiscal year ends on Sept. 30). The data compared proposed MSA amounts with the CMS-recommended amounts (what we typically call the “approved” MSA amounts).  The data can be found here.

 MSA reviews are down

In 2020 CMS completed 16,517 reviews and by the FY end of 2022, this had dropped to 13,752 reviews, a 17% decline.

The reason for the decline is up for speculation.  There may have been fewer settlements and thus fewer MSAs during the pandemic. However, NCCI’s data* show that claim frequency only declined by about 1% when 2020 and 2021 are considered together.

Another theory is that the reduction reflects a trend of settling parties choosing not to submit the MSA to CMS for approval.  Whatever the reason, there has been less engagement with the CMS WCMSA review program.

 Review Methodologies Remain Consistent

When CMS disagrees with a proposed MSA amount it issues a counter-higher with an amount it recommends for the MSA allocation.  The data provided by CMS show that the variance between total MSAs proposed versus recommended change was 13% (2020), 15% (2021) and 14% (2022). This consistency of result is because CMS’s WCMSA review methodologies have remained largely the same over the last several years.

Average Recommended MSA Is Steady

The year-over-year data show very little change in the average recommended MSA amount from $84,563.33 in 2020 to $81,571.75 in 2022.

 A Billion Dollars a Year

The CMS data show that the amount the agency consistently recommends for all the MSAs comes to over $1 billion annually.  However, this does not necessarily represent $1 billion in savings to Medicare.  Savings result when the MSA is funded in a settlement and the MSA funds are expended for injury-related medical care that Medicare would otherwise cover.

How Tower’s MSAs Stack Up

The release of these statistics gives us a unique opportunity to compare Tower CMS-approved MSAs against all CMS-approved MSAs.

Average CMS-Approved MSA (2021 numbers):

CMS:  $80,741                                                 Tower:  $54,956

Tower’s CMS-approved MSAs are 32% lower than the CMS average approved MSA

And if we isolate just the prescription drug component of the MSA.

Average CMS-approved Rx Amount in MSA (2021 numbers):

CMS: $20,916                                                  Tower:  $14,079

Tower is 33% lower than the CMS average for the prescription drug component.

These comparisons prove that Tower’s MSA allocation methodology along with our focus on cost mitigation through interventions, such as our Physician Follow-up service, reduce MSA allocations. Simply put, what this means to our partner clients is millions of dollars in savings.  These metrics also show that cost reductions can be obtained, even when payers choose the CMS MSA approval process.

The release of data on CMS programs has been a policy initiative of the National Medicare Secondary Payer Network (MSPN), to which Tower belongs. We are pleased that MSPN’s efforts have resulted in this release.

We also thank CMS for publishing these statistics.  Hopefully, it will become an annual report that includes more metrics on WCMSA reviews, such as the percentage of MSA proposals that are developed for information post-submission. It would also be interesting to learn how many MSAs are funded in a lump sum versus those funded via an annuity. In addition, MSPN is interested in metrics surrounding Section 111 reporting and Medicare conditional payments.

If you have any questions about this report or anything else on MSP compliance or MSAs, please feel free to contact Dan Anders, Chief Compliance Officer, at or 888.331.4941.

*See Rabb, W., (2022, May 11). “Claims Frequency Up for 2021, but Workers’ Comp Profitability ‘Unprecedented,’” Insurance Journal.