In its February 14, 2022 advisory opinion the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG) allowed a Home Health Agency (HHA), that predominantly serves Medicaid eligible children, to pay the nurse certification program tuition costs for new employees seeking to work as certified nurse aides (CNAs). According to OIG, the tuition payments are permissible under the bona fide employee safe harbor.

The Anti-Kickback statute prohibits a person from knowingly and willfully offering, soliciting or receiving any remuneration, directly or indirectly, overtly or covertly, in cash or in kind, in exchange for or to induce the referral of any item or services covered by a federal health care program. However, the statute includes exemptions for certain situations, one of which involves certain payments to bona fide employees.

In this case, the OIG stated that it would not seek enforcement under the federal Anti-Kickback Statute or the Beneficiary Inducements Civil Monetary Penalty Statute as the arrangement to pay the tuition costs would not be deemed prohibited remuneration under either law. However, the advisory opinion was warranted as the tuition program had the added wrinkle of potentially being a benefit to the relatives of medically fragile children using the HHA’s services and charging those services to Medicaid.
Continue Reading OIG permits home health agency to pay nurse aide certification tuition costs

The recently passed “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” (CARES Act) is sweeping legislation that will have widespread impact on companies in the health care and life sciences space. In addition to expanding coverage of COVID-19 testing and preventive services, the Act includes provisions to address health care workforce needs, eases restrictions surrounding telehealth

Shortly after President Trump declared a national emergency related to COVID-19, CMS issued blanket waivers under section 1135 of the Social Security Act that are intended to ensure there are sufficient health care items and services available to meet the increased need, as well as reduce related administrative burdens on health care providers.

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Aggregate Medicare home health prospective payment system (HH PPS) payments in calendar year (CY) 2020 will increase by 1.3%, or $250 million, compared to 2019 levels, under the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) final CY 2020 rule.  In addition to updating home health agency (HHA) policies, the final rule establishes a permanent

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued an “omnibus burden reduction” rule that finalizes a September 20, 2018 proposed rule intended to streamline various Medicare and Medicaid regulatory requirements, in alignment with the Administration’s “Patients over Paperwork” initiative.  The omnibus regulation also finalizes a November 4, 2016 proposed rule on

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has finalized changes to the discharge planning conditions of participation (CoPs) for hospitals (including long-term care hospitals (LTCHs) and inpatient rehabilitation hospitals (IRFs)), critical access hospitals (CAHs), and home health agencies (HHAs).  CMS believes the rule, which implements statutory requirements under the Improving Medicare Post-Acute Care Transformation

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued the proposed calendar year (CY) 2020 update to Medicare home health prospective payment system (HH PPS) rates and policies.  The proposed rule also would update transitional home infusion therapy rates for CY 2020 and institute permanent infusion therapy payment reforms beginning in CY 2021.

With

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has issued its annual report to Congress with recommendations for updates to Medicare fee-for-service rates for 2020.

With regard to hospital services, MedPAC recommends that Congress update Medicare inpatient and outpatient prospective payment system (PPS) rates by 2% in 2020.  MedPAC also proposes a new hospital value incentive program (HVIP) to replace Medicare’s current inpatient hospital quality programs.[1]  In short, the HVIP would include a small set of population-based outcome, patient experience, and value measures; score all hospitals based on the same prospectively-set performance targets; and account for social risk factors by distributing payment adjustments through peer grouping.  MedPAC believes the HVIP “will be simpler and will produce more equitable results compared with existing quality payment programs.”

MedPAC recommends no change to Medicare physician fee schedule rates in 2020, in accordance with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015.  MedPAC reiterates its criticism of current Merit-based Incentive Payment System measures, stating that they “are neither effective in assessing true clinician quality nor appropriate for Medicare’s value-based purchasing programs.”

MedPAC continues to call for implementation of a unified PPS for post-acute care (PAC) providers, including skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), home health agencies (HHAs), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), and long-term care hospitals (LTCHs).   Acknowledging that implementation of a unified PAC PPS “is on a longer timetable,” MedPAC recommends the following setting-specific interim payment updates for 2020:
Continue Reading MedPAC Recommends Medicare Payment Updates for 2020

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services’ (CMS) final calendar year 2019 Medicare home health prospective payment system (HH PPS) rule boosts rates by 2.2% next year and ushers in broader case-mix methodology reforms for 2020.

With regard to the 2019 update, the final rule increases HH PPS rates by 2.2% ($420 million) compared with

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has determined that it should extend for an additional six months its current moratoria on the Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment of new home health agencies (HHAs) and Part B nonemergency ground ambulance suppliers in selected states.  Under the latest notice, the moratoria

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed its annual update to Medicare home health prospective payment system (HH PPS) rates for calendar year 2019, along with a broader case-mix methodology reform proposal that would be implemented beginning in 2020.

With regard to the 2019 update, CMS proposes a 2.1% rate increase ($400 million) based on a home health agency (HHA) market basket update of 2.8%, minus a 0.7 percentage point multifactor productivity adjustment.  Payments would also reflect a 0.1% increase tied to outlier payment spending and a 0.1% decrease stemming from a new statutory rural add-on classification policy. The proposed 2019 national, standardized 60-day episode payment rate is $3,151.22, compared to the 2018 rate of $3,039.64; the rate for an HHA that does not submit required quality data would be $3,089.49.

The proposed rule includes numerous proposals that would impact home health benefit and payment policies.  For instance, the proposed rule would define remote patient monitoring in the Medicare home health benefit and add the cost of remote patient monitoring as an allowable HHA administrative cost.  It also would provide a temporary transitional payment for home infusion therapy services in 2019 in advance of full implementation of a new home infusion therapy benefit in 2021.  CMS proposes new safety and accreditation standards for home infusion therapy suppliers, and seeks comments regarding payment for home infusion therapy services beginning in 2021.  CMS also proposes changes to Home Health Quality Reporting Program policies, including removal of seven quality measures under a new measure removal factor, in addition to proposed refinements to Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model measures and performance scoring.  A number of provisions of the rule are designed to reduce regulatory burdens, including changes to the physician certification/recertification process to eliminate the requirement that certifying physicians estimate how much longer skilled services will be needed when recertifying patient eligibility for home health care.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes Updates to Medicare Home Health Payment Policies for 2019 and 2020

CMS is considering implementing a Medicare home health claims review demonstration project intended to help identify, prevent, and prosecute Medicare fraud, waste, and abuse and reduce Medicare appeals. Under this initiative, CMS would offer home health agencies (HHAs) in the demonstration area the choice of demonstrating their compliance with Medicare home health policies through 100%

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) has issued its annual recommendations to Congress on updates to Medicare fee-for-service payment system rates, many of which overlap recommendations made in previous years. For instance, MedPAC continues to call for implementation of a unified prospective payment system (PPS) for post-acute care (PAC) providers, including skilled nursing facilities (SNFs), home health agencies (HHAs), inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), and long-term care hospitals (LTCHs), to be implemented beginning in 2021.  In the latest report, MedPAC recommends that Congress direct the Secretary of Health and Human Services to begin blending the relative weights of the setting-specific payment systems and the unified PAC PPS in 2019.  At the same time, MedPAC recommends that Congress modify the updates for the individual PAC systems by:

  • Reducing home health payment rates by 5% in 2019, rebasing payments beginning in 2020, and eliminating the use of the number of HHA therapy visits as a factor in payment determinations.
  • Reducing Medicare IRF PPS rates by 5% for FY 2019.
  • Eliminating the LTCH PPS update for FY 2019.
  • Eliminating SNF PPS market basket increases for fiscal years (FYs) 2019 and 2020, and implementing previous recommendations to reform SNF PPS payments in a way that shifts payments to medically-complex stays. MedPAC notes that it has endorsed SNF PPS reforms since 2008, and it “has grown increasingly frustrated with the lack of statutory and regulatory actions to lower the level of payments and implement a revised payment system.”

MedPAC also includes detailed discussions of Medicare payment for physician and other health professional services. MedPAC recommends increasing physician fee schedule rates in 2019 by the amount specified in current law (0.25%). MedPAC also offers extensive recommendations for revising the framework for updating Medicare physician payments established by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). Most notably, MedPAC recommends eliminating the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and adopting a new voluntary value program under which: (1) clinicians can elect to be measured as part of a voluntary group; and (2) clinicians in voluntary groups can qualify for a value payment based on their group’s performance on a set of population-based measures. Additionally, MedPAC presents the findings of its Congressionally-mandated report on coverage of telehealth services.

With regard to other Medicare fee-for-service payment systems, MedPAC recommends:
Continue Reading MedPAC Calls for Medicare Post-Acute Care and Physician Payment Reforms, Recommends Medicare Payment Updates

The Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, has issued a new Risk Alert focusing on the home health agency (HHA) survey process.  The alert specifically examined whether HHA-supplied patient lists during surveys may omit certain patients from review and thereby present opportunities to conceal fraudulent activity or health and safety violations.

The final CMS calendar year (CY) 2018 Medicare home health prospective payment system (HH PPS) rule cuts Medicare payments by 0.4% ($80 million) in 2018 compared to 2017 levels, but CMS did not adopt a more sweeping case mix methodology reform proposal that would have reduced 2019 payments by almost $1 billion.

Under the final

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reviewing several CMS rules that would finalize CY 2018 Medicare payment policies for various types of providers and suppliers. Specifically, OMB is reviewing final rules to update the hospital outpatient and ambulatory surgical center PPS; the Medicare physician fee schedule and physician Quality Payment Program;

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has once again extended for six months its “temporary” moratoria on the Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) enrollment of new nonemergency ground ambulance suppliers and home health agencies (HHAs) in selected states, effective July 29, 2017. The moratoria on new HHA enrollment (including new

CMS is proposing to cut CY 2018 Medicare home health prospective payment system (HH PPS) payments by 0.4% — or $80 million overall — compared to 2017 rates under a proposed rule published on July 28, 2017. Furthermore, the agency plans major revisions to the HH PPS case-mix methodology for 2019 that potentially could cut payments by as much as $950 million (-4.3%) in 2019. CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule until September 25, 2017.

With regard to 2018 payments, CMS is proposing a 1% update percentage as mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) for those home health agencies (HHAs) that report required quality data (otherwise the update is decreased by 2 percentage points). The update percentage is more than offset by other policies in the proposed rule, however, including a 0.5% reduction due to the sunset of the rural add-on provision and a – 0.97% adjustment for nominal case-mix coding intensity growth (the last year of a three-year phase in period). The proposed CY 2018 national, standardized 60-day episode payment rate would be $3,038.43, compared to $2,989.97 for 2017; the rate for an HHA that does not submit required quality data would be $2,978.26. CMS also proposes to, among other things: recalibrate HH PPS case-mix weights; update the home health wage index; update measures included in the Home Health Quality Reporting Program; remove or modify 35 current Outcome and Assessment Information Set (OASIS) items effective January 1, 2019; and refine requirements under the Home Health Value-Based Purchasing Model.

Looking ahead to 2019, CMS is proposing to adopt case-mix methodology refinements through implementation of a Home Health Groupings Model (HHGM), which CMS believes classifies care “in a manner consistent with how clinicians differentiate between patients and the primary reason for needing home health care.” The HHGM uses 30-day periods of care rather than the 60-day episode now used. According to CMS, the HHGM eliminates the use of the number of therapy visits provided to determine payment, relying more heavily on clinical characteristics and other patient information (e.g., diagnosis, functional level, comorbid conditions, admission source) to place patients into one of 144 payment groups. CMS would use a Cost-Per-Minute plus Non-Routine Supplies approach to measure costs, using information from the Medicare cost report (rather than current weighted minutes of care using Bureau of Labor Statistics data). CMS seeks comments on all aspects of the proposed HHGM, including whether CMS should:
Continue Reading CMS Proposes $80 Million Cut in Home Health PPS Payments for 2018, Additional Significant Reforms for 2019

CMS is delaying the effective date of its January 13, 2017 final home health agency (HHA) conditions of participation (CoP) rule for six months, until January 13, 2018. While CMS is not making any other substantive changes to the rule’s requirements., the agency is making two other conforming date changes:  (1) CMS is giving HHAs

As previously reported, in January 2017 the Obama Administration finalized major changes to the conditions of participation (CoPs) that home health agencies (HHAs) must meet to participate in Medicare and Medicaid. The rule is currently scheduled to go into effect July 13, 2017, except that the requirement to implement data-driven performance improvement projects is