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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

BLR Media Forum in Phoenix

Last week I, I had the pleasure of speaking at the BLR Forum in Phoenix (Nov. 18 – 19).  My sessions were in the Post-Acute Forum. It was an honor to connect with the group and I truly enjoyed the various conversations, questions, etc.  My thanks to everyone that attended!

Attached is the Specializing Your SNF presentation.

Specializing your SNF

The second presentation regarding working with your staff and a series of associated tools for download can be found at this link: https://wp.me/ptUlY-ql

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and I hope to see you all again at another BLR event!

November 26, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Wisconsin Directors of Nursing Fall Conference

Last Friday, I was honored to speak at the Wisconsin Directors of Nursing Fall Conference.  The crowd was great and I had a lot of fun talking with the hardest working professionals in health care.  As promised to them, I have attached the presentation to this post and a bunch of tools and references that everyone can use.  All links (except the books) are free!

Thanks again to everyone that attended.  Questions?  Feel free to reach out to me at hislop3@msn.com!  Looking forward to seeing you all again in the near future!

WI DON Council Presentation

QAPI Indicator Summary – blank

ELOS

PRE SURVEY OBSERVATIONS WALKING ROUNDS

QUALITY ASSURANCE- HOSPITALIZATIONS

Tuck in Program

CVA pathway

ANALYSIS OF UNPLANNED HOSPITAL TRANSFERS -blank

Admission Audit

5 day post discharge

30 Day Post Discharge Questionnaire

3-RoP-Checklist-overview-FINAL.101416

http://hcmarketplace.com/survey-success-for-long-term-care (book with great survey tools)

http://hcmarketplace.com/preventing-uti-in-ltc  (tools, etc. all pertaining to UTIs)

September 25, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SNFs: Five Issues and Trends to Watch…NOW!

The beautiful, fascinating thing about health policy in the U.S. is its cycle of evolution.  It evolves, sometimes slowly and other times quickly but always, in a progressive (not in the political sense) direction.  Providers today can be lulled to sleep (quickly) by the vacuum drone of big policy lectures, webinars, etc., easily thinking for example, PDPM is the two-ton gorilla in the room (we need to deal with).  Perhaps because reimbursement and survey/certification issues are so large that they shadow, seemingly eclipse, other trends and issues.  Yet, think of these other trends and issues like mosquitoes (the state “summer” bird in Wisconsin where I am from); omnipresent, annoying, nipping, but not large enough to cause much damage.  Still, mosquito bites can be a real nuisance and in rare cases, rather debilitating.

None of the following trends/issues weigh-out like PDPM but each has a potential impact for the post-acute sector, namely SNFs.

  1. QRP and VBP: Both can, with poor performance or lackadaisical compliance, reduce Medicare reimbursement.  Today, 73% of the SNFs are feeling some kind of Medicare reimbursement reduction due to VBP performance (lack thereof) in terms of readmissions.  Come October 1, the penalty for non-QRP reporting at a certain threshold kicks-in with a penalty/reduction equal to 2% of Medicare payments  Combine the two and the reduction can mount to 4% of Medicare payments (fee-for-service) to an SNF.
  2. Medicare Advantage and Readmissions: Tying one to the other for VBP is an interesting proposition.  Here’s how this works.  While VBP only positively or negatively impacts fee-for-service Medicare payments, the Medicare Advantage impact that the SNF market is seeing with respect to readmission rates, encompasses Medicare Advantage patients.  Convoluted, I know.  In short-hand: All Medicare patient days count toward the readmission (avoidable) calculation, fee-for-service and/or Advantage.  Based on a recent study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Medicare Advantage patients have a higher  readmission experience than their fee-for-service counterparts.  To be clear, the readmission contrast was for patient diagnostic categories of acute myocardial infarction, congestive heart failure and pneumonia. Still, the issue here is that facilities with a high percentage of Medicare Advantage patients need to be aggressive with these payers in terms of care coordination; particularly as the same intersects with length of stay.  Medicare Advantage plans often look to aggressively shorten lengths of stay, perhaps too aggressively.  Similarly, their networks may not coordinate post-inpatient care via home health agencies as well as one would expect.  They simply don’t have the best agencies in network or they don’t work to consistently integrate the post-acute providers in collaborative coordination efforts.
  3. More SNF VBP?: In a bill recently proposed in the House (bipartisan sponsors) known as the BETTER Act (Beneficiary Education Tools Tele-health Extender Reauthorization), Section 204 includes direction to the Secretary to adopt additional performance measures for reimbursement purposes beginning on or after, October 2021.  The language implies the categories (“additional measures determined appropriate”) to include functional status, patient safety, care coordination and/or patient experience.  As I have written before: Quality and revenue are directly connected today and more is coming.  SNFs better be “on” their Quality Measures and laser-focused on their outcomes or suffer the reimbursement (reduction) consequences.
  4. Quality Measures: Any SNF that hasn’t looked for a while at their Five Start report and specifically, their Quality Measures section is literally, asleep at the wheel.  The numbers now are broken down between long-stay and short-stay measures, with applicable detail.  It isn’t the aggregate rating any more that matters. The reality is the categorical ratings matter most and for SNFs hoping to play “big” in the post-acute arena, the short-stay ratings are KEY.  Today, referral networks are reshaping how and where patients go, post-hospitalization.  Not a day goes by that I don’t hear from hospital and health system folks about their current reviews of SNF QMs, and in particular, the short-stay measure performance.  In a recent discussion with a convener for a Bundled Payment project, she relayed how one SNF was beside itself when she said basically, “no inclusion in their preferred network”.  The SNF was unaware that their short-stay QM rating was only two stars.  The convener was only interested in SNFs with short-stay measures rating four and five stars.
  5. Phase 3 Conditions of Participation Requirements: Though not as impactful as Phase 2 requirements, there are a few here that could bite facilities surveyed post November 28 of this year.  The inspection star ratings are unfrozen now so survey performance  will impact star ratings again…no hiatus.  The biggies?  Infection control with a designated, trained preventionist is required.  Remember, infection control citations tend to be widespread in scope. A compliance and ethics program is required after November 28.  Staff need to be trained on the program and infection control.  The facility assessment is required to tie with the facility’s QAPI program. The facility must develop a person-centered, baseline care plan within 48 hours of admission. With respect to dietary/food service, the facility must designate a director of food service who will have training/certification as a certified dietary manager, certified food service manager, a dietitian, or some other equivalent certification and training in food service management or hospitality from an accredited institution.  A good resource that covers all Phase 3 requirements (as well as Phases 1 and 2) is available (download) here: 3-RoP-Checklist-overview-FINAL.101416

June 26, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Governance and PDPM: What Boards Need to Know

I spend a good (ok, large) amount of time working with non-profit and privately held health care, post-acute and seniors housing organizations.  Nearly all of my work is at the C-level and above and frankly, my career as an executive was there as well (25 plus years).  Boards/governance bodies play a key role in the success and/or failure of an organization.  The same also mitigate or increase risk to the organization, depending on their behavior.   I have witnessed bad boards absolutely devastate once great, market dominant organizations simply through their failure to stay structurally in-tune with industry trends, market conditions, public policy, and patient care and service requirements (from compliance to outcomes and satisfaction).  Naïve, insular and narrowly focused Boards have taken down some of the largest and most prominent companies in any industry.  Health care, with its unique ties to government programs (Medicare, Medicaid, etc.) and regulatory structures, requires a governance model that reflects the industry challenges and mitigates the risks inherent in regulated, reimbursed health care.

Boards have as their primary duty, a fiduciary obligation to the organization.  This duty is best described as an obligation to act and behave solely, in the best interest of the organization and its shareholders/stakeholders.  In non-profit parlance: best interest in the mission of the organization.  To be an effective fiduciary then, the Board must seek to eliminate conflicts of interest and to learn about the risks or potential harms that are inherent to the organization via the business it is in.  The common definitions associated with a Board’s fiduciary obligation is the duty of care, the duty of loyalty and the duty of obedience.  Simply,

  • Duty of Care:  To act as a prudent person and to be engaged in their duties as Board members in the preservation and protection of the organization.  The actions include attending meetings, reading, questioning, and obtaining industry education
  • Duty of Loyalty: Removing self promotion and personal interest (including personal business interest) from Board duties/responsibilities.  Acting only in the collective best interest or the organization and its mission/shareholder/stakeholders.
  • Duty of Obedience: To assure the organization is compliant with all federal, state and local laws and is conducting business in a compliant manner with other rules and regulations as applicable (e.g., bond/debt  covenants).

With PDPM about to change the entire Medicare fee-for-service reimbursement program for SNFs while presenting broader payment change implications (down the road) for Medicare Advantage and even Medicaid (note that Medicaid payment systems always trend-off Medicare programs), Boards need to start NOW to understand PDPM and its certain, organizational impacts.  Each of the above “duties” are in-play but most acutely, the duty of care and the duty of obedience.

To maintain clarity and a certain amount of brevity and readability, below is my Board education/implementation framework for PDPM.

  1. What is PDPM? Explain at a macro-level what the new program impacts (Medicare A, fee-for-service) and how it works compared to the current Medicare RUGs-based system.  I would avoid the jargon and technical while sticking to the core differences.
    • Differences in patient classification and payment level assignment
    • Differences in the role of therapy and the payment thereof
    • Variable payment differences
    • Clinical incentives and behavioral changes
  2. PDPM Impact for the Organization, Part 1? What should the Board know about how PDPM will impact the organization.
    • Revenue impact?  The Board should see and understand, quantified revenue impacts.  Note: Organizations should be modeling the changes NOW to their reimbursement
    • Any technology changes and investments that are necessary prior to October 1
    • Any staff changes, staff education costs, need to budget for consultants, etc.
    • Changes in therapy contracts or therapy provision necessitated by PDPM
    • Changes in care delivery and why such as more group and concurrent therapy, shorter lengths of stay, possible change in clinical acuity
  3. PDPM Impact for the Organization, Part 2? What the Board should know that doesn’t change under PDPM?
    • No changes to other payer sources and programs expected (e.g., Medicare Advantage)
    • No compliance or regulatory changes (survey regulations)
    • No other program changes such as QRP, VBP, etc.
    • No impact to other services or programs the organization may have (home health, hospice, Assisted Living, Pace, etc.)
  4. PDPM Risks: What to Monitor? The Board needs to assure that the organization’s preparation for PDPM and the changes will be implemented and managed such that the organization will stay compliant with all applicable laws, rules and requirements.
    • Will the revenue changes impact bond/debt covenants (negatively)?
    • How will therapy provision be monitored, especially if therapy is provided via a contractor?  CMS has warned that drastic changes in minutes provided and/or treatment levels (from almost exclusively 1 to 1 to group and concurrent) will lead to targeted audits and potential penalties
    • Revenue changes not adequately predicted to the Board
    • Patient satisfaction changes (negative).  PDPM places a premium on efficiency of stay, especially given the variable payment dynamic.  Will care be complete and patients satisfied or will corners be cut adversely impacting satisfaction?
    • Compliance changes (adverse) or performance changes adverse due to PDPM. Has the organization’s performance metrics such as rehospitalizations, falls, infections rates, etc. changed? Any adverse survey changes or serious citations occurred? The Board must be actively engaged in QAPI and should be monitoring quality of care data
    • Budgets and investments met/made to assure smooth and supportive transition to PDPM
  5. PDPM: Other? The Board should require periodic updates across an extended period of time on how the transition to PDPM has impacted the organization, positively and negatively.  Similarly, as with all other major industry changes, PDPM should impact strategic plans and the same, should adjust for the impact PDPM will have.

Given that PDPM will implement October 1, organizations that haven’t at least begun Step 1 above are behind.  Step 2 should occur ASAP, especially since many organizations will likely see some negative revenue impact, if they have a disproportionate Medicare book of therapy of ultra-high RUGs and longer lengths of stay.  Any organization with a therapy contract (not employed, in-house) will need to get into discussions NOW regarding PDPM and their contract terms.  PDPM changes are sweeping and shouldn’t be ignored and/or, under sold and misconstrued to the Board or governing body.  The risks are too great and the organizational peril, too high.

 

January 31, 2019 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Site Neutral Payment Update

In early October, I wrote an article regarding CMS 2019 OPPS (outpatient PPS) proposed rule, specifically regarding site neutral payments.  The purpose of the article was to address the site neutrality trend that CMS is on, streamlining payments to reduced location of care disparities for the same care services.  Succinctly, if the care provided is technically the same but the costs by location are different due to operating and capital requirements, should payments vary?

Yesterday, CMS pushed forward the OPPS final rule, maintaining the concept of site neutrality despite heavy hospital lobbying.  The gist of the rule is as follows.

  • Hospital off-campus outpatient facilities will now be paid the same as physician-owned or independently owned/operated outpatient facilities for clinic visits.  No longer will there be a hospital place-of-care premium attached to the payment.
  • Off campus is defined as 250 yards or more “away” from the hospital campus or a remote location.
  • For CY 2019, the phase-in/transition is a payment reduction equal to 50% of the net difference between the physician fee schedule payment for a clinic visit and the same payment for a hospital locus clinic or outpatient setting.  The amount is equal to 70% of the OPPS (hospital outpatient PPS rate).
  • For CY 2020, the amount paid will be the physician fee schedule amount or 40% of OPPS rate, regardless of location.
  • Final Rule text is here: 2019 OPPS Final Rule

What CMS noted originally as the need stemmed from a Medpac report where a Level 2 echocardiogram cost 141% more in a hospital outpatient setting than in a physician office/clinic setting. This final rule is part of an expected and continuing trend to simplify and streamline payments among provider locations.  Similarly, CMS is following a path or theme laid forth by Medpac concerning payments tied to care services and patient needs rather than settings or places of care.  The 2019 OPPS payment change is a $760 million savings in 2019 expenditures.

Finalization of the OPPS rule with site neutral payments cannot be overlooked in significance. As I wrote in the October article, this is a harbinger of where CMS and Medicare policy makers are heading.  Hospitals lobbied hard and heavy against this implementation claiming a distinction in payment was not only required by dictated by patient care discrepancies.  Alas, there appeared to be no common ground found within that argument.

I suspect now that the door is opened just a touch wider for site neutral post-acute payment proposals to advance.  Under certain case-mix categories, there truly is very little difference in care delivered and no difference in outcomes (adversely so) between SNFs, IRFs, and LTAcHs yet there is wide payment difference.  With lengths of stay declining and occupancy rates the same (declining) among these provider groups, CMS will no doubt (my opinion) push forward a streamlined proposal on site neutral payments in the next three years.  I anticipate the first proposal to concentrate almost exclusively, on SNFs, IRFs and perhaps, some home health case mix categories.  If hospitals can’t budge CMS away from the site neutral path, there is zero likelihood that IRFs and LTAcHs can divert CMS from site neutral proposals in the near future.

 

November 2, 2018 Posted by | Policy and Politics - Federal, Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Post-Acute, Site Neutral Payment Upcoming?

In the 2019 OPPS (outpatient PPS) proposed rule, CMS included a site neutral payment provision.  With the comment period closed, the lobbying (against) fierce, it will be interesting to see where CMS lands in terms of the final OPPS rule – maintain, change, or abate.  The one thing that is for certain, regardless of the fate of this provision, site neutral proposals/provisions are advancing.

CMS has advanced a series of conceptually similar approaches to payment reform.  Site neutral approaches are a twist on value-based care as they seek to reward the efficiency of care by de-emphasizing a setting value.  This is loosely an approach to “payment follows the patient” rather than the payment is dictated by the locus of care.  Assuming, which isn’t always in evidence, that for many if not most outpatient procedures, the care required is the same such that one setting vs. another isn’t impactful to the outcome, then a site neutral payment seems logical.  Managed care companies have been using this approach overtly, attaching higher cost-share to certain sites or eliminating payment altogether for procedures done in higher cost settings. In the OPPS proposal, the savings is rather substantial – $760 million spread between provider payments and patient savings (deductibles).  To most policy watchers, there is a watershed moment possible with this proposal and its fate.  The fundamental question yet resolved is whether hospitals will continue to have a favorable payment nuance over physician practices and free-standing outpatient providers.  Hospitals arguing that their administrative burden and infrastructure required overhead, combined with patient differences (sicker, older patients trend hospital vs. younger, less debilitated patients trending free-standing locations), necessitates a site different payment model (such as current).

In the post-acute space, payment site neutrality has been bandied about by MedPAC for some time.  Up to now, the concept of payment site neutrality has languished due to disparate payment systems in provider niches’.  SNFs and their RUGs markedly different from Home Health and its OASIS and no similarity with LTACHs in the least. Now, with post-acute payments narrowing conceptually on “patient-driven” models (PDPM and PDGM) that use diagnoses and case-mix as payment levers, its possible CMS is setting a framework to site neutral payments in post-acute settings.

In its March 2015 report to Congress, MedPAC called for CMS to create site neutrality for certain patient types between SNFs and IRFs (Inpatient Rehab Facilities).   While both have separate PPS systems for payment, the IRF payment is typically more generous than the SNF payment, though care may look very similar in certain cases.  For IRFs, payment is based on the need/extent of rehab services then modified by the presence or lack of co-morbidities.  IRFs however, have payment enhancements/ additions for high-cost outliers and treating low-income patients; neither applies in the SNF setting.

The lines of care distinction between the two providers today, certainly between the post-acute focused SNFs and an IRF, can be difficult to discern.  For example, both typically staff a full complement of therapists (PT, OT, Speech), care oversight by an RN 24 hours per day, physician engagement daily or up to three times per week, etc.  Where IRFs used to distinguish themselves by providing three hours (or more) of therapy, SNFs today can and do, provide the same level.  As a good percentage of seniors are unable to tolerate the IRF therapy service levels, SNFs offer enhanced flexibility in care delivery as their payment is not predicated (directly) on care intensity.  What is known is that the payment amounts for comparable patient encounters are quite different.  For example, a stroke patient treated in an IRF vs. an SNF runs $5,000 plus higher.  An orthopedic case involving joint replacement differs by $4,000 or more.  Per MedPAC the difference in outcomes is negligible, if at all.  From the MedPac perspective, equalized payments for strokes, major joint replacements and hip/femur related surgical conditions (e.g., fracture) between IRFs and SNFs made sense, at least on a “beta” basis.  With no rule making authority, MedPac’s recommendation stalled and today, may be somewhat sidelined by other value-based concepts such as bundled payments (CJR for example).

So the question that begs is whether site neutral payments are near or far on the horizon for post-acute providers.  While this will sound like “bet-hedging”, I’ll claim the mid-term area, identifying sooner rather than later.  Consider the following.

  • Post-acute care is the fastest growing, reimbursed segment of health care by Medicare.
  • The landscape is changing dramatically as Medicare Advantage plans have shifted historic utilization patterns (shorter stays, avoidance of inpatient stays for certain procedures, etc.).
  • Medicare Advantage days as a percentage of total reimbursed days under Medicare are growing. One-third of all Medicare beneficiaries were enrolled in a Medicare Advantage plan in 2017.  Executives at United Healthcare believe that Medicare Advantage penetration will eclipse 50% in the next 5 to 10 years.  As more Boomers enter Medicare eligibility age, their familiarity with managed care and the companies thereto plus general favorability with the product makes them quick converts to Medicare Advantage.
  • Managed care has to a certain extent, created site preference and site based value payment approaches already.  There is market familiarity for steering beneficiaries to certain sites and/or away from higher cost locations.  The market has come to accept a certain amount of inherent rationing and price-induced controls.
  • At the floor of recent payment system changes forthcoming is an underlying common-thread: Diagnoses driven, case-mix coordinated payments.  PDPM and PDGM are more alike in approach than different.  IRFs already embrace a modified case-mix, diagnoses sensitive payment system. Can homogenization among these be all that far away?
  • There are no supply shortage or access problems for patients.  In fact, the SNF industry could and should shrink by about a third over the next five years, just to rationalize supply to demand and improve occupancy fortunes.  There is no home health shortage, save that which is temporary due to staffing issues in certain regions (growth limited by available labor rather than bricks and mortar or outlets). Per MedPac, the average IRF occupancy rate pre-2017 was 65%.  It has not grown since.  In fact, the Medicare utilization of IRFs for certain conditions such as other neurologic and stroke (the highest utilization category) has declined. (Note: In 2004 CMS heightened enforcement of compliance thresholds for IRFs and as a result, utilization under Medicare has shrunk).
  • Despite payment reductions, Home Health has grown steadily as has other non-Medicare outlets for post-acute care (e.g., Assisted Living and non-medical/non-Medicare home health services).  Though the growth in non-Medicare post-acute services has caused some alarm due to lax regulations, CMS sees this trend favorably as it is non-reimbursed and generally, patient preferred.
  • Demonstration projects that are value-based and evidence of payment following the patient or “episode based” rather than “site based” are showing favorable results.  In general, utilization of higher cost sites is down, costs are down, and patient outcomes and satisfaction are as good if not better, than the current fee-for-service market.  Granted, there are patient exceptions by diagnoses and co-morbidity but as a general rule, leaving certain patients as outliers, the results suggest a flatter, site neutral payment is feasible.

If there is somewhat of  a “crystal ball” preview, it just may be in the fate of the OPPS site neutral proposal.  I think the direction is unequivocal but timing is everything.  My prediction: Site neutral payments certainly, between IRFs and SNFs are on the near horizon (within three years) and overall movement toward payments that follow the patient by case-mix category and diagnoses are within the next five to seven years.

October 2, 2018 Posted by | Home Health, Policy and Politics - Federal, Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Upcoming Webinar: Reducing Hospitalizations and SNF Reimbursement Implications

I am conducting a webinar on Thursday, November 8 regarding the strategies SNFs can and should employ to reduce unnecessary hospital transfers/hospitalizations (E.R. visits and inpatient admissions).  Value-based purchasing has just taken hold in the SNF realm with facilities about to experience their first outcome October 1, 2018 (incentive or reduction).  I’ll cover the policy implications but moreover, review upcoming reimbursement issues beyond just VBP, delving into the care transition (hospitalization) implications that are woven in PDPM.  For example, with PDPM instilling a critical focus on length of stay via imbedded payment reductions after day 20, facilities will naturally look to shorten lengths of stay perhaps at the peril of VBP (Value-Based Purchasing) implications.

During the hour-long session, I’ll address;

  • Reimbursement and policy related implications associated with unnecessary care transitions/hospitalizations under VBP but also, tangential to QRP, PDPM, Five Star QMs, survey and relative to the IMPACT Act.
  • Proven strategies with tools to identify transition risk, monitor performance and benchmark an SNF against its peers.
  • How to leverage good performance in a competitive market and to gain market share in a bundled payment, Medicare Advantage, pay-for-performance environment.

More information and registration information is available at this link.

http://hcmarketplace.com/reducing-readmissions

 

September 13, 2018 Posted by | Policy and Politics - Federal, Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

SNF PPS Final Rule 2019

Yesterday I wrote a quick post regarding the news that CMS was about to issue the SNF Final Rule for Fiscal Year 2019.  Today, the text is available.  Official publication in the Federal Register is set for August 8th.  Readers may access the text here: SNF 2019 Final Rule

I will have analysis and more information available regarding the Final Rule implications for providers later today.  NOTE: Biggest implications center on the shift away from RUGS IV to PDPM (new payment model).  That shift/change occurs 10/1/19 unless otherwise delayed.  On this site, on the Reports and Other Documents page, there is a PDPM calculation worksheet for download.  You can also access it here via this link: PDPM Calculation for SNFs

The worksheet is a good tool/review to grasp the basic mechanics of PDPM and how rates are/will be derived.

August 1, 2018 Posted by | Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Stuck in Neutral: Bundled Payments and Post-Acute Providers

After CMS nixed the mandatory expansion provisions for Bundled Payments and reduced the metro areas participating in CJR (joint replacement), the prospects for post-acute provider involvement in non-fee-for-service initiatives (payments and incentives based on disease states and care episodes) went in to limbo.  With a fair amount of excitement and trepidation building on the part of the post-acute world about different payment methodologies, new network arrangements, new partnerships, incentive possibilities, etc., CMS put the brakes on the “revolution”; a screeching halt.

While Bundled Payments aren’t dead by any means, the direct relationships for post-acute providers are in “neutral”.  The Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced (BPCI Advanced) initiative announced in January included no avenue for SNFs, HHAs (home health) to apply and participate.  Nationally, other voluntary bundle programs continue including the remnants of CJR, and Models 2, 3 and 4 in Phase II.  According to CMS, as of April of this year, 1100 participants were involved in Phase 2 initiatives.  The Phase 2 initiatives cover 48 episodes of care ranging from diabetes, through various cardiac issues and disease to UTIs.

BPCI Advanced opportunities (episode initiators) involve hospitals or physician groups.  Post-acute will still play a role but the direct connections and incentives aren’t quite tangible or specific, compared to CJR.  Time will tell how the roles for post-acute providers evolve in/with BPCI Advanced.  Oddly enough, the economic realities of care utilization and negative outcome risk suggest that post-acute should play a direct, large role. As hospital stays shorten, outpatient and non-acute hospital surgical procedures increase, the directed discharge to post-acute has taken on greater meaning in the care journey.  HHAs in particular, are playing an expanded role in reducing costs via enhancements to their ability to care for more post-surgical cases direct from the hospital/surgical location.  Simultaneous however, readmission risk exposure increases.  What is certain is that system-wide, the window of 30 to 90 days post hospital or acute episode is where significant efficiency, quality and cost savings improvement lies.

While the direct opportunities initially forecast under BPCI for the post-acute industry have evaporated (for now), strategic benefits and opportunities remain.  Providers should not stray from a path and process that focuses on enhancing care coordination, improving quality and managing resource utilization.  Consider the following:

  1. For SNFs, PDPM (new proposed Medicare reimbursement model) incorporates payment changes and reductions based on length of stay (longer stays without condition change, decrease payment after a set time period).  A premium is being placed on getting post-acute residents efficiently, through their inpatient stay.
  2. For HHAs, payment reform continues to focus on shorter episodes in the future.  Like PDPM for SNFs, the focus is on efficiency and moving the patient through certain recuperative and rehabilitative phases, expeditiously.
  3. Medicare Advantage plans are increasing market share nationwide.  In some markets, 60% of the post-acute days and episodes are covered by Medicare Advantage plans – not fee-for-service. These plans concentrate on utilization management, ratcheting stay/episode length and payment amounts, down.  Providers that again, are efficient and coordinate care effectively will benefit by focused referrals and  improved volumes.
  4. Quality matters more than ever before – for all providers.  Star ratings are increasingly important in terms of attracting and retaining referral patterns  Networks and Medicare Advantage plans are focused on sourcing the highest rated providers.  Upstream referral sources, concerned about readmission risks are targeting their discharges to the higher rated providers.  Consumers are also becoming more market savvy, seeking information on quality and performance.  And of course, government programs such as Value-Based Purchasing place providers with poor performance on key measures (readmissions for SNFs) in the reimbursement reduction pool.
  5. Indirectly, Bundled Payment initiatives move forward and the Advanced option will require physicians and hospitals that participate, to source the best referral partners or lose incentive dollars and inherit unwarranted readmission risk.  SNFs and HHAs that excel at care coordination, length of stay management, have disease pathways in-place, can manage treatment, diagnostic and pharmacology expenses and produce exceptional outcomes and patient satisfaction are the preferred partners.

June 29, 2018 Posted by | Home Health, Policy and Politics - Federal, Skilled Nursing | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment