Archive for Medicare


CMS to Watch the Watchdogs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services intends to pay closer attention to the work performed by accrediting organizations for different types of health care providers.

With all providers and suppliers participating in Medicare subject to some kind of accreditation and inspection process, CMS intends to monitor more closely the work of those accreditors and inspectors after a 2018 Wall Street Journal investigation discovered facilities with continuing problems that continued to serve patients and keep their accreditation.

With this in mind, CMS will redesign how accrediting organizations do their work, publicly post performance data on those accrediting organizations, and submit to Congress an annual report on its findings.

In a news release, CMS explained that

Today, the public relies on accreditation status as a way to gauge providers’ and suppliers’ quality of care. By posting more detail—accredited hospitals’ complaint surveys, out-of-compliance information, and performance data for AOs themselves—CMS will offer the public more nuanced information than accreditation status alone provides. 

To learn more about why CMS is making these changes and what form these changes will take, go here to see a CMS news release on the subject and here to see a Fierce Healthcare article.…

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 October agenda were:

  • managing prescription opioid use in Medicare Part D
  • opioids and alternatives in hospital settings: payments, incentives, and Medicare data
  • Medicare payment policies for advanced practice registered nurses and physicians
  • Medicare’s role in the supply of primary care physicians
  • Medicare payments for services provided in inpatient psychiatric facilities
  • episode-based payments and outcome measures under a unified payment system for post-acute care
  • Medicare policy issues related to non-urgent and emergency care

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.


CMS: More Medicare Site-Neutral Payments Coming

The federal government is unlikely to stop with outpatient visits in its drive to make more Medicare payments on a site-neutral basis.

That was the message Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services administrator Seema Verma delivered at a public event last week.

We are taking a look at [site-neutral payments] across the board and looking at our authority and where we can weigh in on it.  But I think the post-acute space is something where there are a lot of differentials in payments and something we’re very interested in exploring.

CMS recently proposed extending its use of site-neutral payments for Medicare-covered outpatient services and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has recommended that CMS pursue site-neutral payments among the different types of post-acute-care providers.

Learn more about Verma’s remarks and CMS’s intentions in this Fierce Healthcare article.


OIG: Medicare Advantage Plans May be Denying Access to Save Money

The Office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is concerned that Medicare Advantage plans may be denying their members access to services to save money and increase profits.

According to the OIG, those Medicare Advantage plans overturn 75 percent of their own denials of service upon appeal and independent reviewers are overturning still more denials.  In the OIG’s view, this high rate of service denials raises concerns that Medicare Advantage plans, which today serve more than 20 million seniors, are denying their members access to needed medical services so they can cut costs and make more money.

To address this problem, the OIG recommends that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services increase its oversight of Medicare Advantage contracts, address problem plans it identifies, and do more to inform enrollees when their plans are performing in such a manner.

CMS agreed with these recommendations.

To learn more about how the OIG went about this work, what it found, and what it recommended, go here to see a summary of its report or go here to see the full report Medicare Advantage Appeal Outcomes and Audit Findings Raise Concerns About Service and Payment Denials

New Approach to Readmissions Program to Take Effect October 1

Medicare’s hospital readmissions reduction program will move in a new direction beginning in FY 2019 after Congress directed the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services to compare hospitals’ performance on readmissions to similar hospitals instead of to all hospitals.

The policy change, driven by a belief that safety-net hospitals were harmed by the program and excessive penalties because their patients are more challenging to serve, results in all hospitals being divided into peer groups based on the proportion of low-income patients they serve.  The readmissions performance of hospitals is then compared only to other hospitals within each peer group.

As a result of this new approach, readmissions penalties against safety-net hospitals are expected to decline 25 percent in FY 2019 while the average penalty for hospitals serving the fewest low-income patients will rise.

Kaiser Health News has published a detailed story describing the policy change and its implications for hospitals, which face penalties of up to three percent of their Medicare revenue for what is considered “excessive” readmissions of Medicare patients within 30 days of their discharge from the hospital.  Included in the article is a searchable database of every hospital in the country that lists the peer group for …