Recent remarks made by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt at a healthcare conference indicated that CMS will be ending the “meaningful use” electronic health record (“EHR”) Incentive Program in 2016, five years ahead of its original final end date of 2021. Acting Administrator Slavitt did not elaborate on the specifics of what will replace meaningful use, but stated it would likely be tied to the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (“MACRA”) and would include various streamlined quality reporting programs. MACRA emphasizes a new Merit-Based Incident Payment System and alternative payment models, and according to Acting Administrator Slavitt, this new law warrants a new streamlined regulatory approach to EHR as well.
Continue Reading CMS to rewrite the rules of EHR meaningful use

On Friday, February 20, 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) unveiled its adjustments to Nursing Home Compare, a website many view as the premier tool for evaluating the nation’s nursing homes. CMS hopes the changes will cause nursing homes to make quality improvements, while critics warn that that the information is still unreliable and could confuse consumers who witness a sudden downward change in a facility’s rating. Nearly a third of the nation’s nursing homes experienced lower star ratings as a result of the changes. CMS stated that 1.4 million viewers access the website annually, with 85 percent of users reporting that they found the information they sought regarding nursing homes.
Continue Reading CMS Revises the 5-Star Quality Metrics System for Nursing Homes

This article was originally published by the American Health Lawyers Association. Copyright 2014, American Health Lawyers Association, Washington, DC.  Reprint permission granted.

On February 5, CMS issued Change Request 8569 instructing Medicare administrative contractors (MACs) to implement system edits to prevent payment of respite care for more than five days at a time for any hospice claim submitted

A study published in the February 2014 issue of Health Affairs concludes that the use of telemedicine by nursing homes can reduce hospitalizations and generate savings for Medicare. However, there are several barriers to successful implementation, including the cost of the technology, the willingness of staff to utilize the service and traditional Medicare and Medicaid payment methodologies.

The researchers noted previous studies suggesting that the lack of on-site physicians in many nursing homes during off-hours (evenings, weekends and holidays) may be one cause of inappropriate hospitalizations. Typically, if a medical issue arises off-hours, an on-call physician is phoned by nursing home staff. The physician can then either travel to the nursing home or, more likely, recommend that the resident be transferred to a hospital emergency room. Could the availability of telemedicine prevent some of these transfers?

Eleven for-profit Massachusetts nursing homes, owned by a single company, and all dually certified to accept both Medicare and Medicaid, were studied. All were very similar in terms of resident characteristics, staffing and quality scores. The nursing home residents received their primary care through physician group practices; prior to the study, most after-hours medical services involved the nursing home staff phoning the residents’ on-call physicians. Telemedicine services were introduced in six of the eleven nursing homes, with five serving as a control group. The six nursing homes utilizing telemedicine services each received a cart with equipment for two-way videoconferencing and a high-resolution camera for wound care. A remote medical call center staffed by an RN, a nurse practitioner and a physician provided the telemedicine services (most of the nursing home residents’ treating physicians had signed over their off-hours coverage to this remote center). Before the telemedicine service was introduced in the six nursing homes, separate training sessions were held for the direct care staff and the residents’ physicians. The annual cost of the telemedicine service was $30,000.00 per facility.
Continue Reading Could Your Facility Benefit from Telemedicine?

CMS continues to emphasize readmissions as a marker of quality.  CMS research shows that approximately 45% of hospital admissions among those receiving either Medicare skilled nursing services or Medicaid skilled nursing services could have been avoided.  Husch Blackwell attorneys Mark Chouteau and Michael Crowe recently authored an article in the October issue of AHLA Connections

As the government shutdown drags on, some CMS activities are grinding to a halt. CMS recently released a memo to State Survey Agency Directors regarding which CMS survey and certification activities will continue and which ones have been put on hold for providers of all types. According to the memo, complaints that are triaged as

Pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently adopted a final rule implementing $1.1 billion in cuts to the Medicaid disproportionate share hospital (DSH) program in 2014 and 2015.  The new rule reduces Medicaid DSH payments by $500 million in 2014 and $600 million in 2015. 

There are several

Adoption of EHR technologies has greatly increased as the result of the EHR Incentive Program. Touted as one of the necessary building blocks for creating integrated delivery systems, EHR is considered vital to improve health quality, efficiency and patient safety.  The EHR Incentive Program has been very successful and CMS has awarded over $10

Skilled nursing facilities have long been subject to civil money penalties (CMPs).  Depending on where the facility is located, it could mean CMPs of hundreds of thousands of dollars or less than $10,000 (with a waiver) for the same type of deficiency.   No longer.  Effective April 1, 2013, Regional Offices (RO) for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for