CMS to Delay Expansion of Pre-Claim Review Demo

September 20, 2016

CMS announced yesterday afternoon that they are delaying the expansion of the Pre-Claim Review Demonstration for Home Health Services which began in Illinois on August 3, 2016.

According a notice on CMS’s website, based on early information from the problems encountered in Illinois, CMS believes additional education efforts will be helpful before expansion of the demonstration to other states; therefore, they will not move forward with initiating the demonstration in Florida in October.  This education effort will focus on how to submit pre-claim review requests, documentation requirements, and common reasons for non-affirmation.

According to the notice, CMS views these efforts as crucial to the long-term success of the demonstration for beneficiaries, providers, and the Medicare program. CMS will therefore take additional time prior to expanding to other states.   The start dates for Florida, Texas, Michigan, and Massachusetts have not been announced; however, CMS will provide at least 30 days’ notice on this website prior to beginning in any state.  CMS continues to expect a staggered start, beginning with Florida.

The Alliance has been working closely with the state associations in the other demonstration states and national home health groups to advocate for major changes to the project.  Building off of this short-term victory, HCA will continue those efforts and is also briefing our Congressional delegation on the issue. HCA will, of course, keep members informed of any changes in the demonstration.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


116 US Reps Sign on to Prior Authorization Letter to CMS

May 31, 2016

Even though the public comment period for CMS’ proposed prior authorization demonstration ended on April 5th, the Home Care Alliance has been active in its continuing advocacy to oppose the measure.

Joining national associations and advocates from across the country, the HCA helped spearhead a congressional letter to CMS opposing prior authorization, which gained 116 signatures and was co-led by Massachusetts Congressman Jim McGovern. All but one member of the state’s congressional House delegation signed on. The Alliance thanks Congressmen Stephen Lynch, Joseph Kennedy, Bill Keating, Richard Neal, Seth Moulton and Congresswomen Niki Tsongas and Katherine Clark for their support.

The proposed five-state pilot includes Massachusetts, Florida, Texas, Illinois and Michigan and those five states have been lobbying members of Congress, but many others nationwide have joined in the fight realizing that a demonstration could, and likely would, lead to wider implementation.

In late February, the Home Care Alliance began its advocacy of the proposal by traveling to Washington DC to deliver a letter outlining the organization’s comments to members of Congress. The HCA and all others who gathered in opposition to the prior authorization demonstration await a response from CMS.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


CMS Sends Brief Response on Congressional HHPPS Letter

October 27, 2015

A letter to CMS voicing deep concerns about the Home Health proposed rule with 133 signatures from members of Congress, including all nine US Representatives from Massachusetts, was sent in mid September.

CMS issued their response, which was more brief than usual and only served to thank the signers for sharing those concerns. CMS is obviously not sharing much as the finalized regulation is set to be released on November 1st.

The original congressional letter to CMS made a few major points. Concerns about the case mix cuts centered on the data CMS relied upon to make those adjustments, which were flagged as “outdated” and illogical. CMS essentially ignored the past five years of data and instead used a decade of data in the prior time period to make projections going forward.

The letter also raised concerns about the proposed Value-Based Purchasing Program (VBP) that will take place in nine states, including Massachusetts. Specifically, the five-to-eight percent penalty/reward window was put forth as much too severe and dramatic as was the immense list of quality measures that CMS proposed that agencies would track as part of the VBP.

Among those leading on the letter were Massachusetts Congressman and home health care champion Jim McGovern. The Alliance thanks Congressman McGovern and all in the state’s congressional delegation that signed on. More information will be announced following the release of the final rule.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org


Federal Lawsuit on Face-to-Face Rule Moving Forward

January 12, 2015

In a major win for home health agencies across the country, a federal district court determined that they will hear a legal challenge presented by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) to the validity of the physician narrative portion of the face-to-face requirement.

According to NAHC, the court issued an order denying Medicare’s effort to have the lawsuit dismissed by the court. The face-to-face requirement (F2F) was troublesome and frustrating from the outset as CMS released no standardized form for providers to follow and provider education was insufficient at best. It took constant advocacy and education on the state and local levels and strong lobbying on the federal level from state and national home care associations and agencies to even call attention to the problem.

The physician narrative where physicians must write a detailed account of patient eligibility for home health care services proved to be the paramount concern. Although the new final rule effective 1/1/2015 removes the narrative piece of the requirement, NAHC will continue to litigate the dispute to address the past claim denials and those denials that may still come involving home health services provided prior to January 1, 2015. If the lawsuit is successful, Medicare would be required to reopen and pay any claim previously denied for an insufficient narrative and stop any further claim reviews related to the narrative requirement.

NAHC and the Home Care Alliance continue to advise home health agencies to consider appealing any narrative-related claim denials while the lawsuit is progressing. Such action will preserve the opportunity to have the claims reviewed by Administrative Law Judges and also allow for easy identification of claims that may be subject to reopening if the lawsuit is successful.

The Alliance will also continue to provide education and updates on the new rule, including an upcoming webinar in early February. The Alliance helped lead the effort on a letter from New England Senators to CMS on F2F reviews and is out front with notices to physicians and hospitals on the recent rule changes.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


“40 Hours Is Full Time” Act Reintroduced in Senate, Advances in House

January 9, 2015

With a significant number of home health agencies classified as large employers under the Affordable Care Act (ACA), home health advocates have convinced lawmakers to reintroduce legislation that would help agencies avoid penalties for failing to offer health insurance to part time workers. The US House of Representatives voted to advance their version of that legislation on January 8.U.S. Capitol Building

Currently, the provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that imposes penalties on employers with more than 50 full-time equivalent employees for not providing health insurance for their “full time” workers defines an employee working just 30 hours a week as full time. This definition of full time is out-of-keeping with standard employment practices and could cause significant financial burdens for many home care agencies. That mandate is not active until 2016, but later this year, the federal healthcare law will require that companies with 100 or more employees must offer coverage to most workers or face a financial penalty.

The House voted 252-172 to approve their version of the bill with 12 Democrats joining Republicans, which is not enough for a “veto proof” majority.

On the US Senate side, a hearing on Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) “40 Hours Is Full Time Act” bill is planned for later this month.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.


National Association Provides Update on Rebasing, SGR

December 13, 2013

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) held a conference call revealing a frantic final week of advocacy activity before Congress takes its holiday recess until the New Year.

The major part of that activity for home health agencies centered around the attempt to delay the impacts of Medicare “rebasing” cuts through an amendment to the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) fix – also known as the physician fix.

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) offered an amendment on behalf of home care that would delay the cuts for one full year and give the industry the chance to lobby CMS to change their methodology with more updated and accurate data. Unfortunately, part of the compromise of the short -term physician fix was that it was a “clean” bill, which means no outside amendments. According to NAHC, even the hospital industry had amendments that were proposed and then withdrawn because of that agreement between Democrats and Republicans.

The short-term SGR fix will last for three months and must be offset by $7 billion. The good news there is that none of the offset is coming from the home health industry. Some of the hit is being hit is being absorbed by cuts to Long Term Care Hospitals and Disproportionate Share Hospital rates, but copays and additional reductions for home care  were avoided.

The light at the end of the tunnel comes from the fact that the Senate is working on a permanent SGR fix and the Stabenow amendment will still be in play for that effort. In addition, NAHC was successful in getting language from the FITT Act into the Senate’s proposal. The FITT Act essentially establishes a national pilot program for home-based telemonitoring provided by home health agencies. It will not be straight reimbursement, but is meant to be a shared savings approach where the providers and Medicare will share in any efficiencies gained. Moreover, if the program is successful, NAHC indicated that the program could be expanded by Medicare without going back to Congress for approval since it is a pilot and not a demonstration.

In terms of hospice care, NAHC also reported that another amendment would allow physician’s assistants to serve as the attending physician for hospice patients.

All of these wheels will be in motion in the New Year, but the main idea is that Democrats and Republicans compromised on a two-year deal that keeps the federal government running and it was done without implementing co-payments for home care. The 2% sequester cuts are extended for an additional two years, but those are not “new” cuts and are simply to make the budget scoring work. By the time the extended years are reached, the sequester could potentially be a thing of the past.

The Home Care Alliance thanks agencies for sending nearly 200 messages to the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation in two days. That education and advocacy will be critical as we move forward to fight rebasing in the New Year. Of course, further information will be provided as it becomes available.

 

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org.

 


Advocacy Alert: Contact Congress Re: Amendment Delaying Rebasing Cuts

December 12, 2013

Congress is working in the final days before the holiday recess on a long-term Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) process and an amendment to that process could delay the impending rebasing cut to home health care.

The Alliance is asking that agencies and advocates contact their Member of Congress TODAY to educate them about the amendment and what it means for Medicare home health agencies. U.S. Capitol Building

Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) has offered an amendment that essentially delays the effects of rebasing so that CMS can hopefully adjust their methodology with updated and more accurate data. Educating the Massachusetts Congressional Delegation is crucial to getting support for the amendment as there is so much happening in the final two days of activity.

More information and a prepared email message is available on HCA’s Legislative Action Network and it only takes a minute to log on and add your voice to this critical push to delay a damaging 3.5% cut per year over the next four years.

We also urge members to call the offices of your Congressional representatives directly using the message below as a guide. Simply call the main switchboard at (202) 224-3121, request a transfer to the office of your Congressional representative, and ask to speak to the individual from that office that is responsible for health policy.Here is the text of the message to Congress if you choose to call:

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has finalized a rule imposing unprecedented Medicare home health reductions under a process called “rebasing.” All told, the impact on providers will be a $200 million cut in each of the next four years.

We are asking for your support in backing an amendment from Senator Debbie Stabenow as well as any corresponding effort in the House to amend the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) process.

These are the largest cuts to home health in decades, and they will cause many agencies to close their doors, especially if these cuts are compounded by Medicare reductions via the continuing budget resolution. Such cuts are counter-productive at a time when health reform relies on cost-effective care at home to serve vulnerable citizens.

CMS’s rebasing cuts were finalized on November 22 and go into effect on January 1. This leaves little time to delay these disastrous cuts and compel CMS to conduct a more fair, accurate and thorough analysis of its fiscal assumptions.

The data is clear. Many Medicare-certified home care providers are already operating in the red across all sources of payment. These new cuts – scheduled to be compounded for each of the next four years – will cripple the industry and create barriers to care. Yet, despite similar trends across the country, CMS concludes that draconian rebasing reductions are needed to eliminate positive margins in home health. CMS’s math simply does not add up.

Many in Congress agree. A bipartisan letter sent to CMS raised strong concerns, stating that the rebasing methodology relies on “incomplete data and analysis that results in the under-counting of home health agencies’ costs per episode of care, and an inappropriately high rebasing adjustment.”

Home care providers nationwide thank you and your colleagues in Congress for your strong stance on rebasing and we ask for your continued active engagement supporting Senator Stabenow and others to delay rebasing and initiate a more rational approach from CMS.

Thank you.

Return to www.thinkhomecare.org


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