Reg's Blog

Senior and Post-Acute Healthcare News and Topics

RUGs IV Here to Stay!

The news we all hoped for came forth this afternoon, wrapped with a big bow just in time for the Holiday season – RUGs IV is here to stay.  The House this afternoon passed a companion version of the bill passed in the Senate yesterday.  President Obama is expected to sign the bill into law shortly.

The legislation calls for $19.2 billion in appropriations to make RUGs IV effective retroactively to October 1, 2010.  In addition, the legislation extends the Medicare Part B therapy cap exception provision presently in place, until the end of 2011.  Without such an extension to the exception process, the Part B therapy caps were set to be automatically reinstated with no exception on January 1, 2011.  As part of the extension of therapy cap exception process, the legislation also staves off pending cuts of approximately 25% in Medicare payments to physicians required by the current sustainable growth formula which drives the physician fee schedule (and related Part B services such as outpatient therapies) under Part B.  Without such a correction to the physician fee schedule, physician fees were set for the significant reduction on December 18 (Congress had already moved the date back to the 18th from the 1st of December).

The implementation of RUGs IV back to October 1 solves significant headaches for SNFs and CMS.  As difficult as it has been for providers to get up to speed on MDS 3.0 and RUGs IV, the process was significantly complicated by the unknown of how the planned RUGs Hybrid would work and whether CMS would seek to recoup potential overpayments from providers as a result of RUGs IV being used temporarily.  Many providers sought to establish liability accounts on their balance sheets for just such an event, even though estimating the liability was somewhat complex due to the lack of solid information regarding the Hybrid groups coming from CMS. 

Having spoken to a number of people within CMS, the implementation of RUGs IV back to October 1 is a true gift.  There were consistent difficulties in getting the Hybrid grouper to function in conjunction with MDS 3.0 and as such, a growing number of inquiries from the industry bombarded the agency expecting more information.  Even more troubling was the prospect of having to deal with payment recapture; a procedural boondoggle CMS was hoping to avoid.  In the end, I am confident that a number of people at CMS are rejoicing this evening.

On a final note, I wish to offer my personal congratulations to my industry colleagues and the trade associations who lobbied for this victory and to my readers, clients and business partners who required that I kept them informed and in many cases, helped me with additional information and of course, thoughtful inquiries that made me stay on top of this important issue.  This policy victory was long overdue but as the saying goes, “better late than never”.

December 9, 2010 - Posted by | Policy and Politics - Federal, Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , ,

1 Comment »

  1. Wow! Reg fantastic work here staying on top of this very trying subject matter. FY11 was going to be very confusing for the SNF industry at best. Great news! Brett

    Comment by Brett Seekins | December 10, 2010 | Reply

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