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MedPAC Weighs in on Proposed Medicare Payment Changes

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has submitted formal comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in response to the latter’s publication of a proposed regulation that would govern how Medicare will pay for acute-care hospital inpatient services and long-term hospital care in the coming 2020 fiscal year.

The 14-page MedPAC report addresses four aspects of the proposed Medicare payment regulation:

  • inpatient- and outpatient drug- and device related payment proposals
  • proposed changes in the hospital area wage index
  • the reporting of hospitals’ uncompensated care on the Medicare cost report’s S-10 worksheet
  • the long-term hospital prospective payment system

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.

See MedPAC’s letter to CMS here.

See NASH’s reponse to the same CMS proposed regulation here.

CMS Seeks Help With Reducing Administrative and Regulatory Burdens

Reducing administrative and regulatory burdens is the subject of a new request for information issued last week by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

In the RFI, CMS explains that it is especially interested in “…innovative ideas that broaden perspectives on potential solutions to relieve burden and ways to improve”

  • reporting and documentation requirements
  • coding and documentation requirements for Medicare or Medicaid payment
  • prior authorization procedures
  • policies and requirements for rural providers, clinicians, and beneficiaries
  • policies and requirements for dually enrolled (Medicare and Medicaid) beneficiaries
  • beneficiary enrollment and eligibility determination
  • CMS processes for issuing regulations and policies

Comments are due to CMS by August 12.

For further information, see the CMS news release “CMS Seeks Public Input on Patients over Paperwork Initiative to Further Reduce Administrative, Regulatory Burden to Lower Healthcare Costs” or go here to see the RFI itself.

House Members Protest Site-Neutral Payment Proposal

138 members of the House of Representatives have written to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma to protest CMS’s proposal to extend Medicare outpatient site-neutral payment policies to off-campus, provider-based outpatient departments specifically exempted from such policies by Congress under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

In questioning CMS’s rationale for the proposed policy, the House members wrote that

It is unclear how CMS has deemed all of the OPD [outpatient department] services at the grandfathered off-campus HOPDs [hospital outpatient departments] as cause of an unnecessary increase in volume of OPD services, and we ask you to provide clarity on this when making these payment changes.

The House members also wrote that

The agency has also proposed cutting payment to 40 percent of the current HOPD rate for grandfathered off-campus HOPDs that begin to furnish a new service from a clinical facility not offered prior to November 1, 2015 which could unfairly penalize grandfathered off-campus HOPDs that expand or diversify the critical services they offer to meet the changing needs of their patients.

In a formal response to the proposed regulation, NAUH expressed much the same sentiment, maintaining that the regulation, if adopted, could detract from the ability of private safety-net hospitals to serve their communities. See that letter here.

Go here to see the House letter.

CMS Proposes Easing Regulatory Requirements

In a newly proposed rule, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services proposes easing the regulatory burden on health care providers.

The proposed regulation, which weighs in at 285 pages, covers a broad range of government regulation of health care providers and would, CMS projects, save hospitals more than $1 billion a year while cutting millions of hours of administrative work.

Learn more about what CMS proposes by reading its fact sheet on the proposed regulation or going here to see the proposed regulation itself.

 

Ways and Means Praises CMS for Red Tape Efforts, Seeks More

Leaders of the House Ways and Means Committee have written to Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma to praise her agency’s work in eliminating Medicare red tape – but also asking her to “…take further steps to improve patient care by alleviating administrative and regulatory burdens for Medicare providers.”

In three separate letters, committee chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX) and Health Subcommittee chairman Peter Roskam (R-IL) expressed their pleasure with CMS’s recent efforts but specified areas where they would like to see further action.

For hospitals, they wrote that they seek further red-tape cutting in the areas of Medicare conditions of participation, facility co-location, hospital quality star ratings, and meaningful measures.

For post-acute-care providers, they want CMS to address the long-term acute-care hospital 25 percent rule, to hold more inpatient rehabilitation facility open-door forums, and to address skilled nursing facility consolidated billing, documentation to satisfy home health eligibility, and hospice medical review audits.

And for physicians, they urged CMS to continue working to improve the Medicare physician fee schedule, the outpatient prospective payment system, and payments for durable medical equipment and other medical equipment and supplies.

Go here to see the Ways and Means letter addressing hospital issues, here to see the letter addressing post-acute care issues, and here to see the letter addressing physician issues.

HHS Unveils Spring Regulatory Agenda

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has published a comprehensive list of the regulatory actions it plans to take in the coming months.

Included on the list are regulations that have been proposed, that are being finalized, and that are currently under development.  They address Medicare, Medicaid, Food and Drug Administration endeavors, medical devices, the 340B prescription drug discount program, and more.

Among the policy changes contemplated through future regulations are measures to reduce regulatory burdens for hospitals, address the opioid problem, facilitate the use of non-Affordable Care Act-compliant health insurance plans, and more.

Go here to see a complete list of the areas for proposed regulatory action by HHS and for links to brief statements about the contemplated actions.

Don’t Slash Medicare Drug Payments, NAUH Asks CMS

The federal government should withdraw its proposal to drastically reduce Medicare payments for prescription drugs covered by the section 340B prescription drug discount program, NAUH has told the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

CMS has proposed a 28 percent cut in those payments beginning in 2018.

According to NAUH, the savings hospitals enjoy from 340B discounts enable them to expand the scope of the services they offer to their low-income patients and engage in additional community outreach.  This was the very reason Congress created the program, NAUH told CMS, and reducing 340B payments now would reduce those savings, undermine the purpose of the program, redistribute the savings among hospitals serving patients with fewer needs, and not save taxpayers any money while also not doing anything to reduce the cost of prescription drugs.

Most private safety-net hospitals participate in and benefit from the 340B program.

Go here to see NAUH’s letter to CMS presenting these arguments.

NAUH Urges CMS to Reconsider Proposed Outpatient Payment Changes

The federal government should not cut in half payments to physicians who care for their Medicare patients in off-campus, provider-based outpatient facilities.

It also should reconsider the circumstances under which hospitals can move their off-campus, provider-based hospital outpatient departments, or expand the services those departments offer, without losing their provider-based hospital outpatient department status.

These were among the comments NAUH offered to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in response to CMS’s proposed Medicare physician payment fee schedule for 2018.

See NAUH’s entire letter to CMS about the proposed outpatient physician fee regulation here.

MedPAC Comments on Proposed Physician Fee Schedule

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission has written to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to convey its views on CMS’s proposed revisions to Medicare physician payment policies for 2018.

Among the issues MedPAC addresses in its comment letter are proposed payments to physicians for nonexcepted items and services provided in nonexcepted off-campus provider-based hospital departments, the Medicare shared savings program, and the Medicare diabetes prevention program.

Return here later this week to learn about NAUH’s comment letter about the same proposed regulation.

See MedPAC’s comment letter here.

Ways and Means Seeks to Cut Medicare Red Tape

The House Ways and Means Committee’s Health Subcommittee has launched a new initiative to attempt to improve the delivery of Medicare services and eliminate statutory and regulatory obstacles to more effective care delivery.

The subcommittee describes its “Medicare Red Tape Relief Project” as

…a new initiative to deliver relief from the regulations and mandates that impede innovation, drive up costs, and ultimately stand in the way of delivering better care for Medicare beneficiaries.

In support of this initiative, the committee has announced a three-part approach in which it will seek feedback from stakeholders, host roundtables with stakeholders across the country, and pursue congressional action to address the problems identified through this process.

As part of the first step, the Health Subcommittee is inviting stakeholders to submit information about regulatory and statutory obstacles they have encountered and how they believe the federal government should address those obstacles.

The National Association of Urban Hospitals intends to share its policy concerns and possible solutions with the committee.

Learn more about the Medicare Red Tape Relief Project and how stakeholders can report problems and recommend improvements from this subcommittee news release.