CMS Releases Home Health Final PPS Rules for 2014

Last Friday, CMS issued its final rules for 2014 Home Health PPS.  As is typical within these final rules, earlier proposals are clarified and additional direction for the future becomes clearer.  In this case, most people who follow the Home Health industry trends will find the continuation of prior year themes; rate reduction, episodic rebasing, additional reportable quality measures, etc.

In context, CMS and Medpac had unveiled a plan years ago to reduce the expansive growth in home health spending.  Essentially, as reported profit margins under Medicare rose for the largest agencies to the upper-teens, CMS via direction from Congress took notice.  The net result is a series of revisions to the home health PPS, primarily driven at reducing payments and reallocating resources away (re-basing) from certain highly reimbursed PPS categories.  Additionally, though not a trend unique to home health, CMS has integrated quality measures and a reporting structure as a means to encourage a pay for performance dynamic.

Below is the synopsis of the final rule.  Readers who wish to see the entire final rule can e-mail me (contact information on the Author page) or comment on this post with a contact e-mail address and will forward accordingly.

  • Overall outlays for home health will reduce year-over-year by $200 million.  To get there, CMS updates home health payments by 2.3% ($440 million), offset by a required rebasing element of $500 million further offset by an additional $120 million in HH PPS Grouper refinements.
  • CMS also plans to begin rebasing the 60 day episodic payment rate (the national per visit standard). This adjustment is mandated by the ACA and must occur over a four-year period during which, no year may adjust by more than 3.5%. The final rule calls for a 2.7% rebase (reduction) though CMS has targeted the amount to a fixed-dollar element of $80.95, rolled through 201.  Oddly enough, when we do the math the amount of $80.95 equates to 3.5% of the 2010 calendar year amount. The CY 2014 60 day episode rate is $2,860.20.
  • The net result of the adjustments above is a 1.5% decrease in Medicare payments to agencies.
  • Two new quality measures are added in the Final Rule – hospital readmissions (during the first 30 days of the home health stay) and preventable emergency room visits.
  • In terms of the HH PPS Grouper refinements, CMS is removing two categories of ICD-9-CM codes.  The first is related to “excess acuity” meaning that the patient’s condition does not warrant care in a home health environment (too acutely ill). The second elimination is regarding codes that would not change the plan of care or adjust the appropriateness of home health case.  CMS plans of converting to ICD-10 on October 1, 2014.

My sole comment on the above relates to “no news”.  CMS had foretold as much and perhaps the only take-away clarity is that more is forthcoming.  Expect no additional spending from Medicare on home health payments for the upcoming years.  Flat will be good but personally, I think 1% to !.5% reductions are the new “norm” for the next four or so years.  In a conference call back mid-summer with some investment folks and industry followers, I and my firm called this result (on the head) when many were saying flat to a positive 2%.  With the ACA impacts and the stated objectives from CMS to realign home health spending, flat was never in the cards.


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