Skilled Nursing Facilities

On June 11, 2021, the Department of Health and Human Services (“HHS”) announced that it had released revised reporting requirements for those providers and suppliers that have received Provider Relief Fund payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Readers may recall that HHS previously issued notices on post-payment reporting requirements starting in July 2020, and that previous

Following the distribution of billions of relief aid to healthcare providers and amidst the guidance issued around reopening of nursing homes throughout the country, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) unveiled a COVID-19 Response Strategic Plan on May 26, 2020 after updating its Workplan a few days earlier.

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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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published its final rule updating the Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) prospective payment system (PPS) for fiscal year (FY) 2020, which begins October 1, 2019.  CMS expects SNF PPS payments to increase by 2.4%, or $851 million, in FY 2020, down from the $887 million increase

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has proposed simplifying and streamlining long-term care (LTC) facility rules and survey processes to “increase provider flexibility and reduce excessively burdensome regulations, while also allowing facilities to focus on providing high-quality healthcare to their residents.”  In addition to numerous other provisions, CMS proposes the following changes that

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently released its 232-page proposed rule to update the Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) prospective payment system (PPS) for federal fiscal year (FY) 2020, which begins on October 1, 2019. Overall, CMS projects that SNF PPS payments would rise by $887 million under the proposed rule. Specifically,

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) has finalized its annual update to Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) PPS rates and policies for fiscal year (FY) 2019, without significant changes to the rule as proposed.  Most notably, CMS adopted the Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM) case mix classification system.  The PDPM, which will replace the existing Resource Utilization Groups, Version IV (RUG–IV) model beginning in FY 2020 (effective October 1, 2019), focuses on a resident’s clinical condition and care needs, rather than the volume of care provided.  CMS characterizes PDPM as a value-based, unified post-acute care payment system that prioritizes the unique care needs of patients and reduces the administrative burden associated with the system.

With regard to the annual payment update, CMS (as proposed) increased rates by 2.4%, as mandated by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018; the annual market basket percentage is reduced by 2 percentage points for SNFs that fail to submit required quality data to CMS under the SNF Quality Reporting Program (QRP).  Based on this update, CMS estimates an increase of $820 million in Medicare payments to SNFs in FY 2019.  CMS also finalized various updates to the SNF Value-Based Purchasing Program (VBP), which adjusts a SNF’s payments up or down based on its performance on a 30-day hospital readmissions measure.

As we noted in our post on the proposed rule, CMS expressed concerns that its proposed change in how therapy services would be used to classify residents under the PDPM could incentivize the use of group and concurrent therapy rather than individual therapy. CMS finalized its proposal to establish a combined 25% limit on concurrent therapy and group therapy for each discipline of therapy provided.  CMS reiterated its position that individual therapy permits the greatest degree of interaction between the resident and therapist, and should therefore represent, at a minimum, the majority of therapy provided to an SNF resident.  While CMS finalized the proposed cap, it left room for future changes and stated that it will monitor whether group and concurrent therapy are being over- or underutilized and will consider revising the policy and undertaking enforcement efforts as necessary.
Continue Reading PDPM Activated:  CMS Finalizes FY 2019 SNF Rule Largely as Proposed

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued its annual proposed update to Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) PPS rates and policies for fiscal year (FY) 2019. In addition to providing a $850 million boost to Medicare payments for FY 2019, CMS proposes a new case mix classification system to replace the

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

CMS is gearing up for the fiscal year (FY) 2019 Medicare payment system rulemaking cycle. The agency has requested that the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) review the FY 2019 proposed rules for the following payment systems:

  • The Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System for Acute Care Hospitals and the Long-Term Care Hospital

CMS has released corrections to two major fiscal year (FY) 2018 Medicare payment rules. First, CMS has made numerous technical corrections to the FY 2018 inpatient prospective payment systems (IPPS) and long term care hospital (LTCH) prospective payment system (PPS) final rule. CMS has corrected MS-DRG and MS-LTCH-DRG relative weights, budget neutrality adjustment factors,

The Office of Inspector General has issued an “early alert” warning that “CMS procedures are not adequate to ensure that incidents of potential abuse or neglect of Medicare beneficiaries residing in [skilled nursing facilities] are identified and reported.” In the course an ongoing review, the OIG identified 134 Medicare beneficiaries with injuries resulting

CMS has made numerous technical and typographical corrections to its October 4, 2016 final rule revising the requirements that long-term care facilities must meet to participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. CMS notes that the corrections are consistent with the policy discussion in the final rule and do not result in substantive policy changes.  

In a clear turnabout from its previous position, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule on June 5, 2017 that would lift the agency’s ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements in the long term care (LTC) setting. By contrast, less than nine months earlier, CMS prohibited LTC facilities from entering into pre-dispute arbitration agreements with residents, conditioning admission to a facility on the execution of such agreements, or making a resident’s continuing right to remain at a facility contingent upon a post-dispute arbitration agreement.

The industry’s response to the ban was swift and resolute—on October 17, 2016, the American Health Care Association and a group of nursing homes filed a lawsuit in federal court seeking a preliminary and permanent injunction to prevent CMS from enforcing the ban on pre-dispute arbitration agreements. The U.S. District Court for the District of Mississippi granted the request for preliminary injunction on November 7, 2016, stalling enforcement of the final rule’s arbitration provisions.
Continue Reading CMS Reverses Course in Pre-Dispute Arbitration Agreement Ban

CMS is extending the comment period on its May 4, 2017 advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM) discussing plans to revise the basis for the Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) prospective payment system (PPS).  As previously reported, the ANPRM set forth the outline of CMS’s plan to replace the current RUG-IV case-mix classification methodology

CMS has issued its proposed rule to update Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) prospective payment system (PPS) rates and policies for FY 2018, while at the same time soliciting comments regarding a forthcoming and potentially ground-breaking proposed rule to replace the SNF PPS RUG-IV case-mix classification methodology, which forms the basis for SNF payment, with the Resident Classification System, Version I (RCS-I), as early as FY 2019.

For nearly ten years, CMS, the Office of Inspector General, and the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission have raised concerns that the current SNF payment system encourages providers to deliver therapy to residents based on financial goals and not patient need.  The RCS-I case-mix model, which was developed during the SNF Payment Models Research initiative, attempts to address those concerns by removing service-based metrics from the SNF PPS and deriving payment, almost exclusively, from objective resident characteristics.  Most notably, the proposed RCS-I case-mix model would:
Continue Reading CMS Simultaneously Releases Proposed Rule to Update SNF PPS for FY 2018 & Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to Replace RUG-IV Case-Mix Methodology as Early as FY 2019

Using unusually blunt language, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) recently noted that it “is increasingly frustrated with the lack of statutory or regulatory action” to lower Medicare skilled nursing facility (SNF) payments and revise the payment system to link payments to patients’ characteristics and costs of care.  It appears, however, that the Centers for