Archive for Medicare reimbursement policy

 

Mandatory Payment Models Coming to Medicare?

Even as CMS rolls out new, voluntary Medicare alternative payment models, it is contemplating making participation in future models mandatory rather than voluntary, as is currently the case.

Or so Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma told a gathering in Baltimore last week.

At the heart of the idea, Verma told her audience, is that while CMS is pleased with participation in voluntary accountable care organization models, organizations are choosing to participate in ACO models they think would benefit them most while posing little or no downside financial risk.  The agency may need to move away from that approach to advance its efforts to transform more of Medicare into a value-based payment program.

Learn more in the Fierce Healthcare article “Verma: Trump administration mulling mandatory payment models.”

Readmissions Program Changes Produce New Outcomes

Many hospitals are faring better under Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program since changes in that program were implemented earlier this fiscal year.

According to a new study, safety-net, academic, and rural hospitals have enjoyed improved performance under the program since Medicare began organizing hospitals into peer groups based on the proportion of low-income patients they serve rather than simply comparing individual hospital performance to that of all other hospitals.

While the current fiscal year is still under way, it appears that safety-net hospitals will enjoy a collective decline of $22 million in Medicare readmissions penalties while 44.1 percent of teaching hospitals and 43.7 percent of rural hospitals will face smaller penalties than last year.

Learn more about the readmissions reduction program and how changes in that program have significantly altered its outcomes in the JAMA Internal Medicine study “Association of Stratification by Dual Enrollment Status With Financial Penalties in the Hospital Readmissions Reduction Program.”

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CMS Posts Proposed FY 2020 Inpatient Regulation

Medicare would change its wage index system, raise inpatient fees, increase funding for Medicare disproportionate share hospital payments (Medicare DSH), enhance payments for new technologies, and make minor modifications in its hospital readmissions reduction, value-based purchasing, and hospital-acquired condition program if a proposed regulation published this week is ultimately adopted.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has published its proposed FY 2020 Medicare inpatient prospective payment system regulation:  its plan for paying acute-care hospitals for Medicare-covered inpatient services in FY 2020.  The 1800-page regulation calls for major changes in Medicare’s wage index system – changes CMS says would “…address the disparities between high and low wage index hospitals…”  It would do so by increasing the wage indexes of many rural hospitals, regardless of their actual wage costs, and pay for those increases by reducing the wage indexes of high-index hospitals, again regardless of their actual wage costs.

The proposed regulation also would raise inpatient payments to hospitals 3.2 percent in the coming year.  In addition, it would add $216 million to its pool of money for Medicare DSH uncompensated care payments – an increase necessitated by this year’s increase in the number of uninsured Americans – while modifying the …

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 April agenda were:

  • Expanding the use of value-based payment in Medicare
  • Medicare Shared Savings Program performance
  • Redesigning the Medicare Advantage quality bonus program
  • Increasing the accuracy and completeness of Medicare Advantage encounter data
  • Evaluating patient functional assessment data reported by post-acute-care providers
  • Options for slowing the growth of Medicare fee-for-service spending for emergency department services
  • Options to increase the affordability of specialty drugs and biologics in Medicare Part D
  • Improving payment for low-volume and isolated outpatient dialysis facilities

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.

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Mixed Verdict: Home Health Leads to More Readmissions But Lower Costs

Readmission rates are greater for patients discharged from hospitals to home health care than they are for those discharged to skilled nursing facilities but home health services cost so much less than nursing homes that home health saves money even with the higher numbers of hospital readmissions.

This is one of the major findings of a new study comparing differences in outcomes for patients who are admitted to skilled nursing facilities upon discharge from the hospital to those for patients who go direct home and receive home health services.

The study also found no meaningful differences in patient mortality or functional outcomes.

Readmissions from home health are 5.6 percent greater than those from skilled nursing facilities but with the much lower cost of home health services, Medicare saves, on average, more than $5400 over the first 60 days after discharge when patients are discharged to home health services rather than nursing homes.

Hospitals, it appears, prefer to discharge patients to nursing homes – perhaps, the study’s authors suggest, because of concern for their own readmission rates, which are subject to review and penalty under Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program.  Also, relatively few hospitals participate in alternative payment models that encompass …