Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Take Notice

This past Friday, CMS officially published an update notice on FY 2013’s skilled nursing facility prospective payment system (aka SNF PPS for you acronym-lovers. For those of you who don’t know, SNF PPS = Medicare Part A payments).

Why are we relieved to hear about a relatively boring notice? Because it’s relatively boring.

SNFs are receiving an approximate 1.8% increase to Medicare payments. That’s a welcome change compared to last year’s SNF PPS rule which reduced Medicare payments by more than 11%. Big difference. This year, SNFs receive a 2.5% market basket update (cost of living adjustment), but a 0.7% productivity adjustment due to the Affordable Care Act’s 10-year plan to reduce Medicare payments to SNFs by $14.6 billion… making the grand total a 1.8% increase or approximately $670 million.

The other thing that is slightly boring about a notice is that - unlike a proposed rule, comment period and then a final rule – CMS only makes statutory update adjustments to Medicare Part A, rather than any new policy that could dramatically affect payments. AHCA had heard wind of this notice back in April and were encouraged to see just that announced late last week.

Because as many long term and post-acute care providers know, it’s been a rough few years. As seen in the notice, health care reform cuts, coupled with the economic recession taking its toll on State revenues and, therefore, State Medicaid programs. Then we’ve had bad debt coverage reductions and sequestration through Congress (sequestration is actually a 2% reduction to all Medicare providers starting in 2013, so practically, SNFs don’t get any Medicare payment update [1.8% increase – 2% sequestration cut = still no increase in Medicare payments]). And despite all of these reductions, SNFs still remain on the potential chopping block any time Congress is looking for ways to pay for the policies that would add to the budget.

Perhaps it’s easier politics, or perhaps it’s the misconceived notions that SNFs are being over paid. Whatever the reason, AHCA stands ready to inform our nation’s policymakers that any additional cuts to skilled nursing care centers are not the answer and that our seniors deserve access to quality care.

You should be ready too.

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