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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 January agenda were:

  • The Medicare prescription drug program (Part D):  status report and options for restructuring
  • Redesigning the Medicare Advantage quality program:  initial modeling of a value incentive program
  • Hospital inpatient and outpatient payments
  • Physician payments
  • Outpatient dialysis payments
  • Skilled nursing facility, home health, inpatient rehabilitation facility, and long-term-care hospital payments
  • Hospice and ambulatory surgery center payments
  • The 340B program
  • ACO beneficiary assignment

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.

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

Good News and Bad for Hospitals on Outpatient Payments

A federal court has provided relief to hospitals that saw reduced Medicare payments for some outpatient services in 2019.

But that relief is only partial.

In response to a suit filed by several hospital groups, a federal court ruled that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid services had illegally reduced Medicare payments for services provided in some hospital off-campus outpatient departments beginning on January 1, 2019 and ordered the federal government to repay the hospitals for the Medicare revenue they lost.  The reduced payments were part of a new Medicare site-neutral payment policy for outpatient services, and CMS has announced a plan for reimbursing affected hospitals for their losses.

At the same time, however, CMS announced that despite the court’s ruling, it will implement the same policy of reduced payments for outpatient care provided in some hospitals’ off-campus outpatient departments in 2020, and an effort by hospitals to persuade the court to ban this payment reduction was rejected by the same court that ruled against CMS on the 2019 payments.

Learn more about the ruling that CMS must reimburse  hospitals for lost payments in the Healthcare Dive article “Hospital group cheers CMS move to pay back outpatient payment cuts.”  Learn about the court decision not to impose the same decision on 2020 payments in the Fierce Healthcare article “Judge strikes down AHA’s bid to halt CMS’ site-neutral payment cuts for 2020.”

MedPAC Meeting Transcript Now Available

Last week the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission met in Washington, D.C.  Among the Medicare payment issues on its agenda of interest to private safety-net hospitals were:

  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Physician and other health professional services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Ambulatory surgical center services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Hospital inpatient and outpatient services;
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Skilled nursing facility services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Home health care services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Inpatient rehabilitation facility services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Long-term care hospital services

A transcript of that MedPAC meeting is now available.  Find it here.

MedPAC Meets

Last 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 December agenda that were of special interest to private safety-net hospitals were:

  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Physician and other health professional services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Ambulatory surgical center services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Hospital inpatient and outpatient services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Home health care services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Inpatient rehabilitation facility services
  • Assessing payment adequacy and updating payments: Long-term care hospital services

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 – policies that often have a major impact on private safety-net hospitals.

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

MedPAC to Meet Tomorrow

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission meets this Thursday and Friday in Washington, D.C.

MedPAC’s December agenda is dominated by Medicare payment issues:  how much Medicare should pay for different types of services in calendar year 2021 and FY 2021.  The services to be addressed during the December 5-6 meetings are physician and other health professional services, ambulatory surgical center services, hospital inpatient and outpatient services, skilling nursing facility services, home health services, inpatient rehabilitation facility services, long-term care hospital services, outpatient dialysis services, and hospice services.

In addition, MedPAC commissioners will discuss their mandated report on expanding Medicare’s post-acute care transfer policy to hospice and hear a status report on the Medicare Advantage program.

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.  Those recommendations, in turn, can have a major impact on the nation’s private safety-net hospitals.

Learn more here.

NASH Comments on Proposed Medicare Outpatient Payment Regulation (part 3 of 4)

The National Alliance of Safety-Net Hospitals has submitted extensive comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services about its proposed changes in the Medicare outpatient prospective payment system for 2020.

In its letter to CMS, NASH focuses on four issues:

  • CMS’s price transparency proposal
  • Reimbursement for 340B-covered prescription drugs
  • Medicare site-neutral payment policy
  • Proposed updates of the inpatient-only list of medical procedures

Today this blog features NASH’s comments about proposed changes in Medicare’s site-neutral payment policy for outpatient services.  On Wednesday we presented NASH’s views on CNN’s price transparency proposal and yesterday we presented NASH’s views on reimbursement for 340B-covered prescription drugs.  On Monday we will present NASH’s perspective on CMS’s proposal to permit Medicare to pay for certain medical services on an outpatient basis rather than limiting them to being performed only on patients admitted to a hospital.

See the complete NASH letter to CMS here.

Site-Neutral Payment Policy

In the proposed regulation, CMS calls for completing its two-year phase-in for paying for off-campus clinic visits at the same rates as the physician fee schedule even if those clinics are grandfathered.  As a result, clinic visits to grandfathered, off-campus outpatient departments would be reimbursed at the site-neutral rate of 40 percent of the outpatient fee.

NASH continues to oppose the implementation of site-neutral payment policy for Medicare-covered outpatient services.  Implementation of this policy is based on authority granted to the Secretary under §1833t)(2)(F) to “develop a method for controlling unnecessary increases in the volume of covered OPD services.”  NASH disagrees with the idea that reducing reimbursement for clinic visits is an appropriate method for controlling unnecessary increases in the volume of covered outpatient services.  First, and most fundamentally, there has been no credible finding that Medicare is experiencing “…unnecessary increases in the volume of covered outpatient services.”  Increased volume?  Yes.  Unnecessary increases?  There is no evidence that this increase is unnecessary.  In fact, the federal government for years now has pursued policies that seek to reduce hospital inpatient utilization and encourage the delivery of more care on an outpatient basis.  If anything, increased outpatient utilization should be viewed as a sign that this effort has succeeded and should be further encouraged, not discouraged and suddenly viewed as “unnecessary” and punished.

Second, although similar outpatient services can be safely provided in more than one setting, CMS’s conclusion that providing care in the more expensive setting is unnecessary presumes that patients who require these services have access to both types of settings.  In reality, they often do not:  many private safety-net hospitals that operate off-campus, provider-based departments do so because they are addressing a need in their communities.  Rather than increasing the volume of unnecessary services, the payment differential enables safety-net hospitals to create access to necessary services in communities where these services would otherwise be unavailable in any setting.  NASH asks CMS to stop this misguided drive to “throw out the baby with the bath water” by continuing to cut reimbursement for necessary outpatient department services just because there may be circumstances in which alternative settings might be available.  The proposed regulation continues to take the site-neutral payment policy too far, and in so doing it ultimately could jeopardize access to vital forms of care for the residents of many low-income communities served by private safety-net hospitals.

This continued practice of reducing payments even to exempted hospital-based, off-campus facilities is harmful:  harmful to those medical practices, harmful to the hospitals that own and operate those practices, and most of all harmful in the long run to many of the patients these practices serve.  NASH continues to object to Medicare reimbursing non-excepted, provider-based physician practices at physician fee schedule rates.  These rates fail to reflect the hospital-related costs associated with such practices – costs such as maintaining emergency departments, operating laboratories, offering comprehensive radiology services, complying with regulatory requirements not imposed on independent physician practices, and much more.  These are valid costs that benefit entire communities, and further reducing these payments, as proposed in this regulation, would jeopardize major parts of the health care infrastructure that every community truly needs.

Finally, last week a federal court ruled that CMS’s implementation of its site-neutral payment policy for Medicare-covered outpatient services exceeded the agency’s authority.  NASH understands that CMS may appeal this ruling, as is certainly its right, but we suggest that continued implementation of the policy be suspended until this matter is adjudicated.

See the complete NASH letter to CMS here.

Court Halts Medicare Site-Neutral Payment Changes

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services did not have the authority to implement the site-neutral payment system for Medicare-covered outpatient services that it introduced last year, a federal court has concluded.

According to the court, CMS exceeded its authority because it

…was not authorized to ignore the statutory process for setting payment rates in the Outpatient Prospective Payment System and to lower payment rates only for certain services provided by certain providers.

In general, hospitals oppose the movement toward site-neutral payments and independent physician groups support it.

The court did not order CMS to reimburse affected physician practices for lost revenue.  Instead, it directed CMS to develop an appropriate remedy.

CMS is likely to appeal the ruling.

Meanwhile, CMS has proposed continuing its phase-in of the site-neutral payment policy in its proposed 2020 outpatient prospective payment system regulation that will take effect on January 1, 2020.  It is not clear how or if – the court ruling might affect CMS’s decision to move ahead with this proposal.

NASH opposed the 2019 change in a formal regulatory comment letter to CMS last year (see pages 2 and 3) on behalf of private safety-net hospitals and next week will submit another comment letter expressing the same view about year two of the proposed changes in Medicare outpatient payment policy.

Learn more about the case, the court decision, and what might happen next in the Healthcare Dive article “Hospitals score victory as judge tosses CMS site neutral rule.”

 

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 December agenda were:

  • Medicare payments for physician and other health professionals services
  • payments for ambulatory surgical centers
  • payments for hospital inpatient and outpatient care
  • Medicare’s hospital quality incentive program
  • payments for skilled nursing facilities
  • payments for long-term care hospitals
  • payments for inpatient rehabilitation facilities
  • the Medicare Advantage program

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.

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

Medicare Site-Neutral Outpatient Payment Proposal Would Have Disproportionate Impact

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ proposal to make more Medicare outpatient payments on a site-neutral basis would significantly cut Medicare’s overall outpatient spending but most of that cut would be borne by just a few hospitals.

A report prepared for the Integrated Health Care Coalition concluded that

…CMS’ Off-Campus Site-Neutral Proposal in the FY 2019 CMS OPPS [note:  outpatient prospective payment system] NPRM [note:  notice of proposed rulemaking] will disproportionate affect about six percent of 3,333 hospitals that participate in the program.  200 hospitals will shoulder 73 percent of the proposed payment reductions….For the top 200, the average reduction will be 5.5 percent.  For the remaining hospitals, the reduction will be 0.5 percent.

Last month NAUH conveyed its strong opposition to this proposal in a formal comment letter to CMS.

Learn more about the CMS proposal and its potential implications in this story in Becker’s Hospital Review or go here to see the complete analysis.

New Reg Pushes Medicare Toward Site-Neutral Outpatient Payments

Medicare would make more payments for outpatient services on a site-neutral basis under a newly proposed regulation just released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

The 2019 Medicare outpatient prospective payment system regulation, published in proposal form, calls for:

  • paying physician fee schedule rates rather than hospital outpatient rates at excepted off-campus provider-based departments;
  • slashing payments for office visits;
  • extending this year’s 340B prescription drug discount payments, already cut nearly 30 percent this year, to additional providers; and
  • raising ambulatory surgical center rates and expanding the list of procedures that can be performed in such facilities so they can compete with hospitals for outpatient services.

The proposed regulation also calls for reducing quality reporting requirements and giving providers financial incentives to prescribe non-opioid pain medicine for surgery patients.

The regulation, which would affect provider payments beginning on January 1, 2019, was published in proposed form and will be finalized later in the year.  Stakeholders have until September 24 to submit comments to CMS.  For further information about what CMS has proposed, see this CMS fact sheet outlining the proposed regulation and the 761-page proposed regulation itself.