Deadline is TODAY for Congressional Signatures on Face-to-Face Letter

The deadline for a Congressional letter that seeks to streamline the burdensome Medicare home health face-to-face (F2F) requirement is today. New York Congressmen Tom Reed and Paul Tonko, as well as New Jersey Congressmen Christopher Smith and Robert Andrews, are circulating the letter and we need your help in cultivating Massachusetts Congressional support.   Please act now!

Use these talking points and call your legislator’s office and ask to speak to the healthcare staffer TODAY. Phone numbers for each office are listed below and if you’re unsure which member of Congress represents you, please contact James Fuccione at the Alliance.

Massachusetts federal delegation phone numbers:

Senator Elizabeth Warren:     (202) 224-4543
Senator Edward Markey:     (202) 224-2742
Congressman Jim McGovern:     (202) 225-6101
Congresswoman Niki Tsongas:     (202) 225-3411
Congressman Joe Kennedy:     (202) 225-5931
Congressman John Tierney:     (202) 225-8020
Congressman Stephen Lynch:     (202) 225-8273
Congressman Richard Neal:     (202) 225-5601
Congressman Michael Capuano:     (202) 225-5111
Congressman Bill Keating:     (202) 225-3111

The Congressional letter is addressed to U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Administrator Marilyn Tavenner. Referring to the F2F mandate, the letter describes the “complicated, confusing and overlapping documentation requirements that exceed the intent of the law passed by Congress,” and it urges CMS to allow the F2F requirement to be met through the completion and collection of the separately signed 485 form.  Such a change would significantly ease the burden of the F2F mandate.

Almost 40 state home care associations (including the Alliance) are already listed in support of the letter, but in order to have the strongest impact with CMS, we need resounding support from as many Members of Congress as cosigners to this letter.

Agency members with any questions can contact James Fuccione at the Alliance.

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Proposed PPS Rule for Home Care and a Call to Action

In the July 3rd Federal Register, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the proposed Medicare Home Health Rule for 2014.  A key provision of this rule is the first year of a multi-year planned adjustment of home health prospective payment rates, otherwise known as “rebasing”.

The directive to rebase the home health PPS rates comes from language in the Affordable Care of 2010 that was a reaction to multiple years of MEDPAC Reports to Congress calling for dramatic steps to reform the home health payment system, which they claim have widely exceeded  program costs almost from the 2001 launch of the current PPS system.

Starting with 2014 rule and going forward through 2017, CMS plans to impose a 3.5% rebasing adjustment to the home health base rate.  This 3.5% reduction is based on CMS’ projection of an average home health profit margin of 13.63% in 2013 (calculated from 2011 data trended forward as the difference between the average national episode revenue in home health and the average national episode cost). The 2014 rule does include a 2.4% market basket update as well.

The phase-in of this rebasing cut and the inclusion of a market basket update is in conflict with what MEDPAC had recommended to Congress (no update and deeper and faster rebasing cuts) and is direct result of industry advocacy form these mitigating factors during the ACA debate.

Now, that type of industry advocacy is needed once again.  While eliminating any rebasing cut may well be impossible, it is possible that with strong Congressional support, we can challenge the CMS calculation and achieve some decrease in the 2014 cut.   Particularly subject to challenge is CMS’ calculation of industry profit margins from which the rebasing number are derived.

We also know the following about CMS’ calculations on profit margins:

  • Only freestanding and not hospital base agency cost reports are considered
  • They are at odds with what MEDPAC’s and NAHC’s numbers show
  • They may fail to adequately capture industry costs around mandates such as the Face to Face requirement, the ICD-10 implementation and investments in electronic health records .

The Alliance believes that we can make a strong case to Congress, but we need members to be engaged as advocates and as sources of information for us.

Please use the questions below as a guide to provide information on the anticipated impact of the CMS Proposed Rule by Friday, July 26th at 12pm. Alliance staff is traveling to Washington DC to meet with members of congress and the national associations, so please have information in ASAP:

  • What is the impact on your agency’s bottom line (in dollar amount and percent loss)?
  • What is the impact on staff, including reducing staff time, cutting jobs, or halting new hires?
  • Do you anticipate cutting or reducing service lines, particularly MassHealth/Medicaid?
  • What is the impact on innovative service lines, like hospital readmission, dementia, chronic disease management, falls prevention and etc?
  • How will the proposed rule affect other ways your agency does business?

Answers to the above can be emailed to James Fuccione at the Alliance

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CMS Clarifies Titling and Dating F2F

Good News for HHAs…

Face to Face (F2F) changes finalized in the 2013 Home Health PPS update Federal Register notice are effective for episodes ending on or after 1/1/2013.  In this notice the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) wrote: “We are finalizing regulatory text changes as proposed. The regulation text will be changed to not be prescriptive as to what entity needs to date and title the face-to-face documentation, but will still require the same content and the certifying physician’s signature.”

The National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC) in an effort to clarify the intent of changes related to titling and dating F2F encounter documentation, asked the CMS to confirm whether home health agencies are now permitted to title and date F2F encounters, and to clarify what “date” the change is referring to.

In the response received by NAHC, CMS wrote: “the new regulations are not prescriptive as to what entity may date/title the encounter documentation.” CMS further qualified this statement saying “to comply with documentation requirements, the face-to-face encounter document has to have two dates: the date of the encounter and the date of the documentation. Our new regulations are not prescriptive as to who can title or date the form, but the form must be signed by the physician. As such, the HHA may add the title and the date of the documentation if this was not done by the physician.”

CMS also reported to NAHC that, “if the physician does not date next to his/her signature, then it would be acceptable for the HHA to date the documentation and consider it the “date of documentation.” This date does not need to be the date that the physician affixed his/her signature in cases where the physician did not date the form at the time of signing.”

This change in the regulation will ease the burden for home health agencies for all the times when they needed to return the F2F document back to the physician  because of a missing date.  In the near future, CMS plans to update its Manuals and F2F Questions and Answers to address the F2F regulatory and policy changes detailed in the 2013 Home Health PPS update Federal Register notice.

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Medicare Home Health Final Rule Issued

The Centers of Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) issued the Home Health Final Rule on Friday, November 2nd.  The Rule updates the HH PPS rates, including the national standardized 60-day episode rates, the national per-visit rates, the low-utilization payment amount (LUPA), the non-routine medical supplies conversion factor, and outlier payments. These rates will be effective January 1, 2013. This Rule also establishes requirements for the Home Health and Hospice quality reporting programs, important policy changes on CoP Non-compliance Sanctions, and improvements on Face to Face Encounter and Therapy Assessment Rules.

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CMS Releases Proposed PPS rates for 2013

CMS on Friday released an advance copy of the proposed regulation for changes to the home health PPS rates for calendar year 2013.

Brief highlights:

• The proposal increases the national base episodic rate by 0.16%, from $2,138.52 to $2,141.95.  (calculated using a 2.5 percent inflation update, a 1 point reduction mandated by the health care reform law, and a 1.32 percent case mix creep adjustment.)

• The portion of the rate adjusted by the wage index is increased from .77082 to .78535

• The county wage index is available here (click on the “download” at the bottom of the page).:

Here are changes for MA counties:

Current                2013

Barnstable                        1.2838                   1.2872
Boston                              1.2283                   1.2394
Middlesex                         1.1210                   1.1285
Essex                               1.0698                   1.0575
erkshire                            1.0616                   1.0745
Bristol                               1.0639                   1.0718
Springfield                        1.0247                   1.0390
Worcester                         1.1076                   1.1230
Dukes/Nantucket              1.3962                   1.3570

The proposed rule also:

  • allows certain non-physician practitioners in inpatient settings to conduct the required Face-to-face encounter;
  • increases flexibility in complying with the therapy reassessment requirements;
  • establishes hospice quality reporting requirements to begin in 2014, including various proposed measures to report;
  • creates an Informal Dispute Resolution process that agencies can use to dispute survey deficiencies;
  • establishes a range of “Intermediate Sanctions” for non-compliance with the Medicare Conditions of Participation, including civil money penalties, suspension of payment for new admissions, and temporary management.

The Alliance will conduct a thorough analysis of the proposed rule and prepare comments.  Watch for additional details in the next few weeks.

Comments are due by Sept. 4.

Guest Post: Fraud and Abuse Tied to MD Face-to-Face Encounters

The following is a guest blog post on fraud and abuse issues by Robert W. Markette, Jr., CHC, Of Counsel for
Benesch Friedlander Coplan & Aronoff LLP. Mr. Markette’s primary areas of practice are health law and litigation and his wide range of health care clients includes home health, hospice and private duty providers.

Mr. Markette is also responsible for assisting the Home Care Alliance with its “Keeping it Legal in Home Care” resources on patient choice.

To view the entire article, click the link after the introduction:

As home health and hospice care continue to become more and more competitive and reimbursement continues to decline, referral sources are discovering new ways to leverage this for their own benefit. Two new examples include physicians requesting “administrative fees” to complete face to face paperwork and referral sources seeking “donations” from providers to defray the cost of capital equipment and other improvements. Providers need to understand the risks in these arrangements in order to avoid entering into arrangements that place them in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and/or the Stark Law.

The entire article from Mr. Markette is available here.


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FYI: “Home Health Prospective Payment System” Fact Sheet Revised

The Medicare Learning Network has recently released the revised Home Health Prospective Payment System” fact sheet and is now available in downloadable format. It includes the following information: background, consolidated billing requirements, criteria that must be met to qualify for home health services, coverage of home health services, elements of the HH PPS, updates to the HH PPS, and healthcare quality. This can be used as a handy tool for new employees to home health care!

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CMS Responds to Congressional Letter on MD Face-to-Face

Congressman Jim McGovern, along with the rest of the state’s Congressional Delegation, received a response to a letter sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) that reflected the struggles of home health providers in Massachusetts relative to the physician face-to-face encounter requirement.

Unfortunately, the response from CMS is mostly a reiteration of the reasoning behind the rule and a commitment to monitor the implementation of the policy “to ensure that there are no unintended disruptions in access to medically necessary home health care for our beneficiaries.”

For more on the Physician Face-to-Face Encounter Requirement, see previous posts on the subject.

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CMS Proposes Medicare Home Health Payment Changes for 2012

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) have issued a proposed rule regarding payment changes as well as revisions to the physician face-to-face and therapy assessment rules.

Below is a summary of the most noteworthy aspects of the proposed rule provided by the National Association for Home Care & Hospice (NAHC):

1.       Proposed 2012 payment base episode rates are reduced to $2112.37 from the current $2192.07. This is a reduction of approximately 3.56%.

2.       The rate changes are due to a proposed 2.5% market basket index inflation update, a 1 point reduction in the MBI under the health care reform law, and a 5.06% case mix creep adjustment.

3.       The increase in the case mix creep adjustment is due to the evaluation of 2009 coding weight changes. CMS found that ¾ of the coding increases was a result of increases in therapy visits above the 14 and 20 visit thresholds.

4.       The 3.56% rate reduction will impact individual providers unevenly. CMS proposes to make significant changes in coding weights by eliminating hypertension as a factor in the calculation, reducing the weights on therapy episodes, and increasing weights on non-therapy episodes. Providers with high volumes of therapy cases could see greater net rate reductions. A provider-specific analysis using the provider’s particular case mix is the only reliable way to assess impact.

5.       CMS proposes to change the face-to-face rule and allow one physician to do the encounter and report the information to another physician who completes the certification and plan of treatment documentation. This should help in circumstances where a patient is under the care of a hospitalist who transfers the patient to a community physician.

6.       CMS proposes to clarify the therapy assessment standard where more than one discipline is involved.

The proposed rule on rates is in line with what had been expected. Nevertheless, that does not turn a lemon into lemonade. The change on the face-to-face rule is appreciated, but will only make a slight improvement as the documentation requirements remain a problem.

CMS also posted the proposed rule on the Medicaid face-to-face encounter requirements. The proposal aligns the Medicaid time frames with the Medicare time frames while providing some flexibility to states to determine other aspects such as the content and form of documentation. The proposal also reaffirms CMS’s position that a homebound requirement in Medicaid home health is not permitted and that services can be provided outside the home. Finally, the proposal offers clarifications on the coverage of medical supplies and equipment.

Another summary is available in a press release issued by CMS with a few more specifics on payment. The Home Care Alliance is working on a specific analysis regarding the payment changes based on the northeast’s wage index and will have that available soon.

See links to the specific proposed rules in the Federal Register below:


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MA Congressional Delegation Weighs in on Physician Face-to-Face Requirement

The Massachusetts Congressional Delegation has stepped up again, this time sending a letter to CMS Administrator Dr. Donald Berwick with concern over the physician face-to-face requirement.

Every member of the delegation – Senators Kerry and Brown, as well as US Reps Markey, Frank, Neal, Olver, McGovern, Tierney, Capuano, Lynch,  Tsongas and Keating – signed onto the letter noting that the Massachusetts health care community has made considerable efforts to comply with the rule, but the paperwork burden and duplicative nature of the requirement are proving problematic and that CMS should consider changes.

The letter itself is available here and the Home Care Alliance greatly appreciates the work and support from the Congressional Delegation.

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