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Category: Medicare

Good News from the Supreme Court

Here’s what happened: A major victory was won today for Providers who have appealed the inclusion of Medicare Part C days in the SSI ratio/exclusion of dual-eligible Medicare Part C days in the Medicaid ratio for years ending 2004-2012.

The Supreme Court of the United States has affirmed Allina Health Services, et al. v. Price, 863 F.3d 937 (CADC 2017), wherein the United States Court of Appeals supported Providers and held that HHS violated the Medicare Act when it changed its reimbursement formula without providing notice and opportunity for comment

HHS arbitrarily began including Part C days in the Medicare fraction through its 2004 Final Rule, and Toyon has been helping Providers in appealing the agency’s actions. The Providers’ position has consistently been that only Medicare Part A days should be included in the SSI ratio and that dual-eligible Part C days instead belong in the numerator of the Medicaid ratio calculation. Providers argued CMS’ actions were tantamount to retroactive rulemaking, which the D.C. Circuit agreed was impermissible in Northeast Hospital Corp. v. Sebelius, 657 F.3d 1 (CADC 2011). Providers also disputed the fact that HHS violated statutory notice-and-comment obligations in establishing its practice of including Medicare Part C days in the SSI ratio, a position both the DC Circuit Court and U.S. Court of Appeals upheld through the prior Allina decisions. 

What it means to you
Today the Supreme Court settled the issue once and for all by agreeing with Providers and holding that HHS did indeed violate its rulemaking obligations in including Part C days in the SSI ratio. This decision should effectively invalidate the agency’s actions andProviders should expect to be offered settlement amounts from CMS for any negative reimbursement impacts caused by its inclusion of Part C days.

What Now?
No details are yet available on how or when the amounts will be calculated nordispensed to affected Providers, but Toyon Associates, Inc. will be contacting affected hospitals in the coming weeks as more details become available.

Please contact Karen Kim at (925) 685-9312 or if you have any questions or concerns. 

The following is the link to the ruling.

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OPPS Final Rule – CY 2019

In This Edition:

  • CY 2019 Medicare OPPS Final Rule
  • Pricing Transparency Revisited
  • Hospital Value Based Purchasing Data Published
  • Hospital-Specific Rate Refresher

OPPS Final Rule – CY 2019
CMS-1695-FC drafted on 11/2/2018; Published in the Federal Register on 11/21/2018 and corrected notice issued on 11/30/2018

On November 2, 2018, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized changes that remove unnecessary and inefficient payment differences between certain provider and supplier types so patients can have more affordable choices and options. The final rule with comment period updates and revises policies under the Medicare Hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) and Ambulatory Surgical Center (ASC) Payment System.

The polices in the calendar year (CY) 2019 OPPS and ASC Payment System final rule with comment period will further advance the agency’s priority of creating a patient-centered healthcare system by achieving greater price transparency, and significant burden reduction so that hospitals and ambulatory surgical centers can operate with better flexibility and patients have access to the tools they need to become active healthcare consumers.

Overall, the final rule is projected to result in an estimated increase of $360M (or 0.6%) in payments to providers, ranging from -1.6% decreases for rural hospitals in the New England region up to 1.6% increases for rural hospitals in the West South Central region.

For more information regarding this Final Rule, see below:

Fact Sheet Link

Federal Register Link

Medicare OPPS Base Rates
CMS is proposing a base rate increase of 1.35% for hospitals that submit OQR quality data and 2.1% for ASCs that submit ASCQR quality data.

APC Changes
As expected, CMS has finalized the weighting changes to APC weights for CY2019, along with new APC codes and new HCPCS codes.  Below is a listing of the largest changes in weighting between CY2018 and CY2019 APCs:

Click here for a table of the full APC weighting comparison between CY2018 and CY2019.
Click here for a table of the new HCPCS codes effective 7/1/2018.

Other APC Changes
CMS has created three new comprehensive APCs (C-APCs) for ears, nose, and throat (ENT) and vascular procedures.  CMS will also remove four procedures from the inpatient-only list and add one procedure to the list.

Click here for a table of the changes to the inpatient-only procedures.

Changes to Quality Reporting
CMS is finalizing several changes to the OQR reporting in an effort to reduce burdens on hospitals, including the removal of 8 measures from the OQR (1 from CY2020 and 7 from CY2021).  CMS will also remove the three recently revised pain communication questions, starting with services on Oct. 1, 2019, to address concerns that providers might feel pressure to offer opioids in order to raise survey scores.

Click here for a table of the 8 OQR measures proposed to be removed.
Click here for a table of the 26 OQR measures required for CY 2020 and here for a table of the 15 ASCQR measures required for CY2020.

Off-Campus Payment Policy Changes
CMS remains concerned with the shift of services from freestanding physician offices to hospital provider-based departments (PBDs).  As a result, they are proposing several significant changes that will negatively impact OPPS reimbursement for these facilities:

Expansion of PFS Rate for All Clinic Visits:  CMS will extend the reduced Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) rate for clinic visits (HCPCS code G0463) to all off-campus PBDs, even those excepted under Section 603.  (Note:  The PFS payment rate is approximately 60% less than the OPPS rate.)  CMS will phase in this policy by paying 70% of the OPPS rate in 2019, then reducing payment to 40% of the OPPS rate in 2020 and future years.  CMS estimates that the impact of this change is expected to reduce reimbursement to hospitals by $380M in FY2019 and $760M in FY2020 and beyond.

Restricting “Clinical Families of Services” – Cancelled:  CMS decided not to finalize its requirement that excepted off-campus PBDs be limited from expanding services to any clinical family of services from which it did not furnish and bill during the period from 11/1/2014 to 11/1/2015.  Such items and services would have been paid at the reduced PFS rate applied to non-excepted off-campus PBDs.  New items or services within a clinical family of service would have continued to be paid under OPPS, as this would be considered a “service expansion.”  Even though this policy was not finalized, CMS indicated that it has the authority to do so and will continue to monitor these PBDs and service growth.

New “ER” Modifier:  Finally, CMS will require a new “ER” modifier to identify services in off-campus ER departments.  The modifier would be reported on the UB-04 form and would be required on every line for outpatient services furnished in an off-campus provider-based emergency department.  This is meant to address the MedPAC recommendation for CMS to assess the extent to which OPPS services are shifting to off-campus ER departments.  (Critical access hospitals would be exempt from this reporting requirement.)

Changes to Drug Payment Policy
In response to the President’s Commission on Combating Drug Addiction and the Opioid Crisis, CMS has changed the packaging policy for certain drugs.  CMS will also change the payment for separately payable drugs for non-excepted off-campus PBDs to the same lower Average Sales Price (ASP) minus 22.5% (or 77.5% of ASP) that excepted off-campus PBDs receive.  Currently these non-excepted departments receive 106% of ASP for these drugs.  Rural SCHs, Children’s, and Cancer hospitals would be exempt.

Click here for a table of the drugs and biologicals with pass-through status expiring on 12/31/2018.

Other News

Pricing Transparency Revisited – Action Required by 1/1/2019
CMS is updating their guidelines regarding the requirements to comply with Section 2718(e) of the Public Health Service Act for hospitals to make public a list of the hospital’s standard charges. Previously issued guidelines required hospitals to 1) make public a list of standard charges (whether that be the chargemaster itself or in another form of the hospital’s choice), or 2) make known the hospital’s policies for allowing the public to view a list of those charges in response to an inquiry.

Effective January 1, 2019, CMS is revising their guidelines to remove the requirement to make known the hospital’s policies for allowing the public to view a list of those charges in response to an inquiry. Hospitals will now be required to make available a list of their standard charges via the internet in a machine-readable format and require that these lists be updated at least annually.

 In the proposed rule, CMS solicited comments on various questions to include defining standard charges, type of information beneficial to patients, informing patients of their out-of-pocket costs, and greater transparency around patient obligations. In the final rule, CMS did not respond directly to public comments but published a separate FAQ document, which can be accessed here.

Toyon’s Take:  Toyon recommends the following actions to comply with this change:

  • List the charges at gross amounts (i.e., not adjusted for discounts to third-party payers, charity, self-pay, etc.)
  • Calculate the average charge per case for each MS-DRG and include with the list of standard charges (Use FY 2011-2016 publicly available info as a guide at this link)
  • For services subject to variable pricing (e.g., drugs, supplies, and implants subject to an internal mark-up policy that are variable to acquisition price), develop an average charge from the most recent period (e.g., quarter, year)
  • Publish the list in a machine readable format (e.g., txt, csv, xlm, etc.). Note:  PDF is not considered an acceptable format.
  • Update at least annually the publicly available chargemaster
  • Include an advisory statement that the published charges are to be used as a guide and that actual charges incurred and patient obligation may differ
  • The format is at the hospital’s discretion, and CMS did not specifically address the inclusion of hospital charge codes and CPT/HCPCS

For additional information, please contact Robert Howey at

 Hospital Value-Based Purchasing Program Update for FFY 2019
On December 3, 2018, CMS released the final hospital value-based purchasing (VBP) incentive payment adjustment factors in Table 16B on its website for FFY 2019. The payment factors are effective for Medicare discharges on or after October 1, 2018, and are applied to the adjusted base operating MS-DRG payment. Each participating hospital’s payment rate is inclusive of a 2 percent contribution to the VBP payment pool ($1.9B) and adjustment factors greater than 1.0 represent those receiving payments above their contribution.

The payment factors are based on each hospital’s total performance score (TPS) measured on four equally weighted domains: Clinical Care (Mortality), Patient and Caregiver-Centered Experience, Patient Safety, and Efficiency/Cost Reduction. The breakeven TPS score for FFY 2019 was 35.15 (up from 34.60) and over 55 percent of hospitals will receive higher Medicare payments from the previous year. The highest performing hospital will receive a net increase in IPPS payments of 3.67 percent, and the lowest performing hospital will incur a net decrease in IPPS payments of 1.59 percent.

Click here for a table of estimated VBP payment impacts to each hospital.

For additional information, please contact Robert Howey at

Hospital-Specific Rate Updates – A Refresher
When calculating a Sole Community or Medicare Dependent Hospital’s hospital-specific rate (HSR) each year, remember that any hospital-specific adjustment factor (e.g., IQR or EHR reduction factor) is only applicable for discharges occurring during that Federal Fiscal Year.  Those reduction factors are not cumulative in nature and should not be carried forward.

The HSR should be tabulated each year by adjusting the hospital’s most recent base period rate by the full, non-reduced cumulative update factors applicable to all hospitals for each fiscal year since the latest rebasing.  And then only for the current Federal Fiscal Year should any hospital-specific adjustment factors be applied to the hospital for that one year.

For additional information, please contact Ron Knapp at

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