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Senior and Post-Acute Healthcare News and Topics

PDPM: First Blush Analysis

One quarter (three months and change) down and PDPM appears to be mostly positive for SNFs.  CMS is reporting a higher average per diem payment level than under RUGs.  Despite some added coding complexity, paperwork burdens are down for providers (two MDS’ during most stays now vs. many under RUGs).  Anecdotally, the industry is seeing added access for certain patient types that previously, were difficult SNF placements.  The NTA category is the driver of this additional access as payments help offset, higher clinical costs associated with certain patient needs and comorbidities.  Approximately 2/3rds of facilities have experienced rate increases (67%); 23% experiencing decreases.  Where rate erosion has occurred is in facilities that were heavily skewed under RUGs to RU and RH level therapy payments – 75% or more utilization.  Conversely and logically, the winners have been facilities with a much more balanced book of business; a normative or typical RUG distribution (historically) and a patient/referral base that included more clinical complexity.  Studies that initially showed a 90% plus increase in Medicare per diem rates in October erroneously ignored the initial conversion bounce (NTA pick-up) that came into play for residents in a facility under RUGs on 9/30 that carried-over into PDPM on 10/1.  Suffice to say, the playing field has leveled.

Originally, CMS estimated that PDPM would be budget-neutral with a modest or slight bias toward rates being flat or down just a touch at the facility level.  The projection from CMS using 2017 data was for a 1.37% decrease.  November’s data/results ran 5.7% above the CMS projection.  While CMS has provided no immediate reaction to the “better than expected” trend for providers, the reality is that an adjustment of some form is likely.  MedPac has called for no rate increases for SNFs in FY21.  It is possible that a flat-rate scenario will emerge for at least a few years IF, rate pullbacks aren’t part of the immediate solution.

While fee-for-service rates under PDPM offer encouragement for providers, the overall occupancy trend and payer-mix is a sobering element.  Since 2010, overall fee-for-service utilization is down by 17.7%.  Length of stay for the same period also declined by 7.4% (covered days).

Three factors are heavily influencing the fee-for-service utilization and length of stay trends.  First, Medicare Advantage is a growing payer type (covered lives).  MA plans simply account for shorter stays at reduced rates where SNF care is required.  Second, home health agencies have filled the bill for certain care needs, circumventing altogether, an SNF stay.  It is not uncommon for a routine knee-replacement patient with stable comorbidities to transition home with a home health agency vs. to an SNF or IRF (inpatient rehab facility).   Pneumonias, infections, wounds, etc. can be managed at home; preferable for the patient and often, for the payer.  Third, ACOs and Bundled Payment programs (and MA plans too) work to steer patients to home or outpatient settings either avoiding the SNF entirely or shortening the inpatient stay by a day or series of days.

While the PDPM rate bump may seem good news, and it is, the euphoric feeling is temporary.  Increased revenue is a function of not just rate but utilization.  If utilization continues to remain on a downward path, the dip won’t be offset by rate.  Similarly, utilization patterns are shifting and as of today, I see no progression or shift toward increased SNF utilization.  Frankly, there remains in most markets, too many SNF beds for the functional demand (certainly, for the demand with a good payer source).  Assisted Living models, those adapted to a higher-level chronic care model, continue to erode long-term SNF census.  This erosion causes a two-part dilemma for SNFs. First, fewer patients/residents to occupy beds and second, the remaining patients tend to have Medicaid as a payer source.  For SNFs that can’t play and survive to a large extent in the post-acute realm, alternative options are scarce for long-term resident occupancy (I-SNPs perhaps?).

One last caveat for providers at this juncture, is worth noting.  PDPM rates are up and CMS has yet to begin audits.  I suspect facilities will see some “shock and awe” once these audits begin.  Remember, audits are done by intermediaries and contractors – not by CMS directly.  I have seen some claim funk as facilities have strutted their way to some higher payments by additional speech utilization – utilization that wasn’t there under RUGs.  I’m watching facilities aggressively pursue cognition via Speech Therapy engagement; seeking to score residents at certain times of the day where cognition may be lower (later day, after a nap, etc.).  A note of warning here is warranted.  Coding opportunities are available under PDPM and IF, such an opportunity correlates to a higher payment, that’s great PROVIDED that, the care delivered and documented, supports the coding.  I am already seeing residents coded at one level of cognition, Speech being used for “cognitive training” and nursing documentation stating that the resident is, “alert and oriented x 3”.  Which is it as it can’t be both?  The proper approach is to evaluate the overall needs of the resident and develop a careplan with the whole team that reflects this holistic assessment.  The key then going forward, is for all disciplines to appropriately document the care provided, consistent with the careplan.

 

 

 

 

 

February 10, 2020 Posted by | Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Upcoming Webinar: Reduce Citation Risk

SNFs are just a little past one year since the new Conditions of Participation were implemented along with a new survey process.  Today, we are in the first-full quarter of Phase 2 implementation and facilities are just now getting surveyed on these requirements. As a result, we have some data on how the new survey process is going, what facilities are experiencing in terms of citations, how survey teams are looking at Phase 2 requirements, etc.

On Wednesday, March 7th I will be joined by Diane R. Hislop, RN, H2 Healthcare’s compliance expert and Senior Partner, presenting a webinar on the Phase 2 aspects of the SNF Conditions of Participation, the new survey process and how facilities can reduce citation risk.  The webinar will last an hour and there are some great handouts and tools that Diane has agreed to share with all participants.  I hope you can join me and Diane for what will be, an exceptionally informative update on SNF surveys and compliance trends.

The registration link is here:

http://hcmarketplace.com/reduce-citation-risk

February 14, 2018 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SNFs, Therapy Contracts and Fraud: Another Warning and Example

I know I sound redundant but clearly, the message is still not permeating through the industry (except for readers here). The Department of Justice and the OIG for the Department of Health are scrutinizing SNFs, their therapy billings, and the use of therapy contractors.  Why?  It is all due to a known and now routinely validated, prevalence of over-billing and thus fraud and/or violations (same thing really) of the False Claims Act.  I have written on this subject on this site multiple times before and those that have heard me speak at various industry events, received the same message. Bottom-line: If you are an SNF and you use a contract therapy company to provide your therapy services, you must monitor the performance of your therapy contractor and assure that all Medicare billing and Condition of Participation requirements are being met.  The acts of the therapy contractor (over-billing, miscoding, improper care, etc.) are the “ACTS” of the SNF as far as the Federal government is concerned.  The SNF is responsible for ALL elements of care provided and the accuracy and compliance elements of any and all claims submitted to Medicare.https://rhislop3.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=1138&action=edit#

In another case, recently disclosed, a group of three SNFs in New York (Arch Care) operated by Catholic Health Care System settled improper (false) claim allegations with the Department of Justice for $3.5 million.  The settlement is based on improper and inflated claims submitted to Medicare for unnecessary, erroneous and improper therapy care provided by RehabCare (a division thereof in this case).  The cause of the settlement or the crux of the issue related to the SNFs failure to monitor the therapy provider and to assure that the erroneous/illegitimate claims were not submitted to Medicare.  The result of the claims submission is overpayment and thus, the recovery and settlement.  Noticeably absent is any action taken against the therapy company by the Department as none such can be taken – the therapy contractor did not bill Medicare – the SNF did!

SNFs need to pay attention to these cases – more are assuredly forthcoming.  There are simple remedies to avoid these problems on the part of any SNF or group of SNFs.  Below is just a small sample.  For additional resources, attend the upcoming HcPro webinar that I  am conducting next week (posted on this site) or contact me directly.

  • Implement a triple-check system immediately.
  • If an SNF hasn’t audited its Medicare billings lately via an outside contractor, do so immediately especially if the SNF uses a therapy contractor.  Be prepared if irregularities are found to self-disclose.  Self-disclosure is required and it is the only way to potentially avoid treble damages, criminal liability, etc.
  • Retain an outside auditor and develop a routine audit system. I have checklists which can be used to guide in this process plus sources for auditors.
  • Educate your MDS and billing staff immediately on red-flag issues when it comes to your Medicare billings.
  • Integrate certain outcome and patient/resident/family feedback elements into your QA process.  Seek direct feedback monitor care outcomes and risk areas.

March 5, 2015 Posted by | Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments