CMS Proposes New Prospective Payment System For Renal Dialysis Facilities

November 16, 2009 is the deadline to comment on a new prospective payment system (PPS) for facilities that provide dialysis services to Medicare beneficiaries who have end-stage renal disease (ESRD) proposed by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today (9/15/09).  Interested persons can review the proposed rule here.

Currently, ESRD is the only category for Medicare eligibility that is based on a specific diagnosis, without regard to the age of the patient. Patients diagnosed with ESRD must rely on dialysis or receive a kidney transplant for survival.  ESRD services are furnished on an outpatient basis in independent or hospital-based dialysis facilities. Currently, Medicare pays for certain dialysis services under a partial bundled rate, referred to as the composite rate. Payments for these composite rate services represent about 60 percent of total Medicare payments to ESRD facilities. The remainder of Medicare spending for dialysis services is for separately billed items such as drugs, but may also include laboratory services, supplies and blood products.

Today’s notice proposes three quality measures that CMS plans to use for its quality incentive program (QIP) and lays out a conceptual model for public comment.  

Quality Improvement Measures

The ESRD PPS proposed rule proposes the following specific measures that will apply to the initial performance period of the Quality Incentive Program:

  • Hemodialysis Adequacy: Achieved urea reduction ratio (URR) of 65 percent or more;
  • Anemia Management: Controlled anemia, as shown in two measures:
    • The percentage of patients at a facility whose hemoglobin levels were less than 10 grams per deciliter (g/dL), and
    • The percentage of patients at a facility whose hemoglobin levels were greater than 12 g/dL.

CMS reports the proposed measures were chosen because dialysis facilities have used them since 2001. These measures are currently collected from Medicare dialysis facility claims so there is no need for separate reporting. Finally, CMS already has data on these measures which it can use to develop and test models for the operation of the QIP.

As required by law, CMS plans to establish performance standards for each of the measures and facilities would be scored based on their adherence to the measures. Providers and facilities that do not meet or exceed the total performance score during a performance period would see up to a two percent reduction from their payment rates in the succeeding year.

CMS will accept comments on this conceptual QIP model in the ESRD PPS proposed rule through November and will is 

The ESRD PPS proposed rule proposes the following specific measures that will apply to the initial performance period of the Quality Incentive Program:

  • Hemodialysis Adequacy: Achieved urea reduction ratio (URR) of 65 percent or more;
  • Anemia Management: Controlled anemia, as shown in two measures:
    • The percentage of patients at a facility whose hemoglobin levels were less than 10 grams per deciliter (g/dL), and
    • The percentage of patients at a facility whose hemoglobin levels were greater than 12 g/dL.

CMS reports the proposed measures were chosen because dialysis facilities have used them since 2001. These measures are currently collected from Medicare dialysis facility claims so there is no need for separate reporting. Finally, CMS already has data on these measures which it can use to develop and test models for the operation of the QIP.

As required by law, CMS plans to establish performance standards for each of the measures and facilities would be scored based on their adherence to the measures. Providers and facilities that do not meet or exceed the total performance score during a performance period would see up to a two percent reduction from their payment rates in the succeeding year.

Proposed PPS Model

The proposed PPS would provide a single bundled payment to dialysis facilities that would cover the items and services used in providing outpatient such services, including the dialysis treatment, prescription drugs, and clinical laboratory tests.  

Under the proposed rule, CMS would establish a base bundled payment rate of $198.64 for all of the services related to a dialysis session, including the services in the current composite rate as well as items, including oral drugs that are billed separately. CMS reports the proposed base rate was derived from 2007 claims data for both composite rate and separately billable services and updated to reflect projected 2011 prices. CMS would adjust this base rate for case mix factors such as the patient’s age, gender, body size, and time on dialysis. A special case-mix adjustment would apply to pediatric patients. Additional adjustments to the payment rate would be made for specific conditions, or co-morbidities that have a significant impact on a course of treatment. By accounting for more characteristics of patients, the new PPS would target payments more appropriately, paying higher rates to those facilities with the most costly patients. The base rate would also be adjusted to reflect geographic differences in labor costs. In addition, CMS is proposing to provide an adjustment for low-volume facilities, as well as an outlier policy that would make an adjustment for particularly expensive cases.

The following are highlights of the proposed mechanics of the proposed new PPS:

ESRD Base Rate and Bundle of Services: CMS is proposing to pay a base rate of $198.64 per dialysis treatment, representing the average Medicare allowable payment per treatment for composite rate and separately billable services, including training and home dialysis costs, laboratory services and all ESRD-related Part B and former Part D drugs. The proposed base rate would be adjusted to reflect patient- and facility-specific differences in case-mix and other adjustments as required by MIPPA.

To arrive at a base rate, CMS is proposing to adjust the average payment per treatment using 2007 claims data adjusted to reflect 2011 projected prices. The rate will not include positive adjustments for case-mix and the wage index as those will be introduced into the payment formula at a later time. This standardized amount must then be reduced by 1.0 percent to fund the proposed outlier policy, and reduced by the percentage required by MIPPA to reflect 98 percent of the estimated payments that would have been made absent the statutory changes.  

Proposed Standardized Amount: Based on 2007 claims data, total per treatment payments in CY 2011 are projected to be $261.58. To eliminate the overall positive effects of the proposed case-mix and geographic adjustments, CMS is proposing a 21.73 percent reduction, yielding a standardized amount of $204.74.  

Proposed Outlier Adjustment: CMS is proposing to reduce the standardized amount by 1.0 percent for outlier payments for cases requiring unusually high amounts of drugs or other services that are separately payable under the current payment system. This 1.0 percent reduction lowers the standardized amount of $204.74 to $202.69.

MIPPA Required 98 Percent Adjustment: As required by MIPPA, CMS is also proposing to adjust the reduce the standardized amount by 2.0 percent to ensure that estimated total Medicare payments to ESRD facilities in CY 2011 are 98 percent of what they would have been under the existing system. This additional reduction yields a proposed base rate of $198.64.

Transition Budget Neutrality Adjustment: Also required by MIPPA, CMS is proposing that a transition budget neutrality adjustment factor (a 3.0 percent reduction) be applied to all payments during the four-year phase-in and would make payments under the transition the same as they would have been had there not been a transition. As part of this transition budget neutrality adjustment, during the transition, CMS is proposing to apply a $14 per treatment adjustment to the composite rate portion of the blended payment amount to reflect ESRD-related Part D drugs.

Patient-Level Adjustments: As authorized by MIPPA, CMS is proposing to adjust the base rate for case mix using a variety of factors which have been found to affect costs. Under the existing payment system, the composite rate is adjusted for age, body surface area (BSA), body mass index (BMI), and pediatric status. The proposed rule would add adjustments for patient sex (female patients) and certain co-morbidities, as well as a “new patient adjustment” that recognizes that patients have higher costs in their first four months of maintenance dialysis. In addition, special payment adjusters would apply for providers of pediatric services. CMS is specifically seeking comment about these and other patient characteristics that may affect costs of treatment and for which a payment adjustment may be appropriate.

Facility-Level Adjustments: MIPPA specifically requires CMS to adopt an adjustment for low-volume facilities and gives the HHS secretary discretion to adopt additional facility-level adjustments. Based on an analysis of ESRD data, CMS is proposing to define low-volume facilities as those facilities that: (1) furnished fewer than 3,000 treatments in each of the three years preceding the payment year; and (2) have not opened, closed, nor received a new provider number due to a change in ownership during the three years preceding the payment year. Other definitions may be added to include geographic restrictions. CMS is also proposing to continue to apply a wage index adjustment using the core-based statistical area (CBSA) definitions. The index would be based on the most current hospital wage data, prior to application of the rural floor and occupational mix adjustments, and geographic reclassifications.

Outlier Policy: MIPPA requires CMS to make adjustments for high cost patients, called outlier payments, to ESRD facilities that treat patients who use more than the predicted amount of services, including the amount of erythropoietin stimulating agents (ESAs) used to manage dialysis-related anemia. As noted previously, CMS is proposing to reduce the standardized amount for all dialysis treatments by 1.0 percent, to fund the proposed 1.0 percent policy under the new ESRD PPS. CMS is proposing a fixed loss dollar amount of $134.96 for adult and $174.31 for pediatric dialysis patients. Once the fixed dollar amount is met, CMS would pay 80 percent of the ESRD facility’s outlier service costs. CMS projects that approximately 5.3 percent of adult and 2.6 percent of pediatric patient months would qualify for outlier payments.

Annual Payment Rate Updates: As required by MIPPA, beginning in CY 2012 the ESRD PPS base rate will be updated annually by an ESRD market basket index minus one percentage point. The proposed rule includes a discussion of how the ESRD market basket would be calculated.

Beneficiary Coinsurance: CMS is proposing that the beneficiary coinsurance amount be 20 percent of the ESRD bundled payment amount, including applicable case-mix adjustments and outlier payments. CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule through November 2009, and will respond to them in a final rule to be issued in 2010. The new payment system would apply to renal dialysis services furnished to Medicare beneficiaries on or after January 1, 2011.

Required by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), CMS reports the new payment system set forth in the proposed rule is designed to improve the efficiency of care, while promoting high quality services.

CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule through November 16, 2009, and will respond to them in a final rule to be issued in 2010. The new payment system would apply to dialysis services furnished to Medicare beneficiaries on or after January 1, 2011.

If you need assistance with auditing, updating or defending your organizations HIPAA and other privacy and data security practices, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Leader Cynthia Marcotte Stamer at (214) 270-2402 or via e-mail at CStamer@CTTLegal.com.  The former Compliance Committee Chair of the National Kidney Foundation of North Texas, Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising nephrology, dialysis and other health care providers about gainsharing and other reimbursement, quality, regulatory and compliance, risk management, workforce and staffing and other operational matters.

Other Recent Developments

If you found this information of interest, you also may be interested in reviewing some of the following recent Solutions Law Press Health Care Updates available online by clicking on the article title:

For More Information

We hope that this information is useful to you.  If you need assistance with auditing or defending these or other health care compliance, risk management, transaction or operation concerns, please contact the author of this update, Curran Tomko Tarski LLP Health Practice Group Chair, Cynthia Marcotte Stamer, at (214) 270‑2402, cstamer@cttlegal.com.   Ms. Stamer has extensive experience advising clients and writes and speaks extensively on these and other health industry and other internal controls and risk management matters. 

You can review other recent health care and internal controls resources and additional information about the health industry and other experience of Ms. Stamer here.  If you or someone else you know would like to receive future updates about developments on these and other concerns, please be sure that we have your current contact information – including your preferred e-mail – by creating or updating your profile at here or e-mailing this information to cstamer@cttlegal.com.

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©2009 Cynthia Marcotte Stamer.  All rights reserved.

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