NASH Seeks Help From End-of-Year Legislation

Eliminate Medicaid disproportionate share hospital cuts (Medicaid DSH), appropriate additional resources for the Provider Relief Fund, and extend the current suspension of the two percent sequestration of Medicare spending, the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals asked members of Congress in a letter NASH sent yesterday.

The request comes as Congress returns to Washington to take up the funding of the federal government at a time when authorization for spending under a continuing resolution ends on December 11.  In addition to addressing federal funding, Congress also may consider COVID-19 legislation.

Learn more from NASH’s letter to Congress.

MedPAC Meets

Earlier this week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

Among the issues on MedPAC’s November agenda were:

  • expansion of telehealth in Medicare
  • report on Medicare beneficiaries’ access to care in rural areas
  • effects of pharmaceutical rebates on Part D’s risk adjustment
  • improving competition among Medicare Part D’s benchmark plans
  • separately payable drugs in the hospital outpatient prospective payment system
  • Medicare Advantage payment and access for enrollees with end-stage renal disease

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving the Medicare program.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

HHS Webinar Thursday

The Department of Health and Human Services will hold a webinar on Thursday, October 22 at 1:00 (eastern) about the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ recent guidance explaining how it will implement an interim final rule that makes the collection and reporting of COVID-19 data a condition of participation in Medicare for hospitals.

On August 24 CMS published an interim final rule establishing new requirements in the hospital conditions of participation in Medicare and on October 6 HHS published the updated document “COVID-19 Guidance for Hospital Reporting and FAQs For Hospitals, Hospital Laboratory, and Acute Care Facility Reporting.”  Among the data elements hospitals are required to report are their current count of lab-confirmed COVID-19 patients, number of staffed beds, number of occupied ICU beds, and information about personal protective equipment and ventilators.

The purpose of the webinar is to explain to providers how HHS will implement these requirements.

Go here to register for the webinar.

Feds Penalizing Wrong Hospitals for Readmissions, Study Finds

Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program often penalizes the wrong hospitals for excessive readmissions.

Or so concludes a new study published in the journal JAMA Cardiology.

According to the study,

…the percentage of hospitals that were incorrectly penalized was 10.1% for acute myocardial infarction, 10.9% for heart failure, and 12.3 percent for pneumonia.

The study also found that the readmissions reduction program is failing to penalize some hospitals that do deserve penalties based on the program’s standards, writing that

…in fiscal year 2019, the percentage of hospitals that should have been penalized by the program, but were not, was 20.9% for acute myocardial infarction, 13.5% for heart failure, and 13.2 percent for pneumonia.

Learn more about the study’s findings and why Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program is missing its mark in the JAMA Cardiology report “Misclassification of Hospital Performance Under the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.”

 

MedPAC Talks Telehealth

Expanded telehealth is here to stay, members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission agreed at their September public meeting.

What they do not yet know is in what form.

Among the issues that need to be addressed in any post-COVID-19 expansion of Medicare-covered telehealth services are:

  • Whether affording access to telehealth services would exacerbate the digital divide and leave some Medicare beneficiaries with less access to care than others.
  • Whether audio-only coverage, temporarily permitted during the pandemic, should be continued.
  • Whether greater use of telehealth might foster greater use of low-value services.
  • Whether use of non-HIPAA-compliant video technology should continue to be permitted.

Learn more about MedPAC’s deliberations on telehealth in the Healthcare Dive article “MedPAC commissioners hint at telehealth policies that may stick post-COVID-19” and see the presentation that formed the basis for the discussion of this issue at MedPAC’s recent public meeting.

 

MedPAC Meets

Last week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C. to discuss a number of Medicare payment issues.

The issues on MedPAC’s September agenda were:

  • the coronavirus pandemic and Medicare
  • context for Medicare payment policy
  • report on the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014’s changes to the Medicare clinical laboratory fee schedule
  • expansion of telehealth in Medicare
  • Medicare coverage for vaccines

MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises Congress on issues involving the Medicare program.  While its recommendations are not binding on either Congress or the administration, MedPAC is highly influential in governing circles and its recommendations often find their way into legislation, regulations, and new public policy.  Because so many patients of private safety-net hospitals are insured by Medicare, MedPAC’s deliberations are especially important to those hospitals.

Go here for links to the policy briefs and presentations that supported MedPAC’s discussion of these issues.

Loan Repayment Looms for Hospitals

Unless Congress intervenes, hospitals will soon begin repaying massive federal loans they received to help them cope with the COVID-19 public health emergency.

The loans, authorized by the federal CARES Act, were made through the Accelerated and Advance Loan Program, and in all, Medicare made nearly $100 billion in such loans to providers.  Under the legislation, Medicare was to begin recouping the loans 120 days after hospitals received them, with recoupment coming by Medicare ceasing to pay hospitals’ Medicare claims until the full amount of the loan was repaid.

Now the loans are coming due but hospitals are saying they are not ready to forego all of their Medicare revenue.

While some hospital groups have asked for 100 percent forgiveness for the loans, others are calling for a combination of extending the payback period and reducing the interest rate for those that fail to complete repayment in a timely manner.

In a letter to Senate leaders last month on behalf of private safety-net hospitals, NASH wrote that it

… urges you to forgive the federal Medicare revenue advanced to hospitals through the CARES Act’s Accelerated and Advance Payment Program. Because of the unprecedented length and persistence of this public health emergency, we believe many hospitals – especially safety-net hospitals – will never recover the revenue we have lost in recent months. Most of us expect to be able to restore financial equilibrium, but we will not be able to do so if we have this enormous debt hanging over our heads.

Both House Democrats’ HEROES Act and Senate Republicans’ HEALS Act attempt to address the loan situation – albeit in different ways – but neither calls for forgiving the loans entirely.

Learn more about the challenges hospitals face with their obligation to repay Accelerated and Advance Loan Program money and how Congress is looking at that challenge in this Washington Post article.

MedPAC Reports to Congress

MedPAC has submitted its annual report to Congress.

The congressionally mandated report, titled Report to Congress:  Medicare and the Health Care Delivery System, consists of seven chapters:

  • Realizing the promise of value-based payment in Medicare: an agenda for change.
  • Challenges in maintaining and increasing savings from accountable care organizations (ACOs).
  • Replacing the Medicare Advantage quality bonus program.
  • Mandated report: Impact of changes in the 21st Century Cures Act to risk adjustment for Medicare Advantage enrollees.
  • Realigning incentives in Medicare Part D.
  • Separately payable drugs in the hospital outpatient prospective payment system (OPPS).
  • Improving Medicare’s end-state renal disease (ESRD) prospective payment system (PPS).

While MedPAC’s recommendations are not binding on Congress or the administration, they are highly respected and often find themselves worked into new law or regulations.

Go here to see MedPAC’s news release accompanying the report and here to find the report itself.

NASH Calls for More COVID-19 Legislation

On Tuesday the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals wrote to Senate leaders and asked them to advance legislation with five major COVID-19-related policy initiatives that private safety-net hospitals seek:

  1. An additional $100 billion for hospitals.
  2. A 14-point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP).
  3. A 2.5 percent increase in states’ Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments and another delay in implementation of Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in those allotments.
  4. Reduced interest rates and a longer payback period for Medicare payments advanced to hospitals through the CARES Act’s Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
  5. Prevention of implementation of the Medicare fiscal accountability regulation (MFAR).

Learn more from NASH’s letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

Coronavirus Update for Tuesday, June 2

Coronavirus update for Tuesday, June 2, 2020 as of 2:45 p.m.

NASH Advocacy

On Tuesday, the National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals wrote to Senate leaders and asked them to advance legislation with five major COVID-19-related policy initiatives:

  1. An additional $100 billion for hospitals.
  2. A 14-point increase in the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP).
  3. A 2.5 percent increase in states’ Medicaid disproportionate share (Medicaid DSH) allotments and another delay in implementation of Affordable Care Act-mandated cuts in those allotments.
  4. Reduced interest rates and a longer payback period for Medicare payments advanced to hospitals through the CARES Act’s Accelerated and Advance Payment Program.
  5. Prevention of implementation of the Medicare fiscal accountability regulation (MFAR).

Learn more from NASH’s letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell and Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer.

On Monday NASH submitted formal comments to CMS on an interim final rule published in April to help health care providers respond to the COVID-19 emergency.  NASH expressed support for the changes CMS introduced.

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services

Food and Drug Administration

The Joint Commission

Federal Funding Opportunities for Hospitals

  • NASH has prepared a document that collects and presents in one place the various new federal funding opportunities for hospital resulting from legislation addressing the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Find that document here.

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