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Archive for December, 2013

President Signs SGR Reform Act

Thursday, December 26th, 2013

On December 26, 2013, President Obama signed into law the Pathway for SGR Reform Act of 2013. This new law prevents a scheduled payment reduction for physicians and other practitioners who treat Medicare patients from taking effect on January 1, 2014. The new law provides for a 0.5 percent update for such services through March 31, 2014. President Obama remains committed to a permanent solution to eliminating the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) reductions that result from the existing statutory methodology. The Administration will continue to work with Congress to achieve this goal.

The new law extends several provisions of the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 as well as provisions of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Specifically, the following Medicare fee-for-service policies have been extended.

Medicare Physician Payment Update – the new law provides for a 0.5 percent update for claims with dates of service on or after January 1, 2014, through March 31, 2014. CMS is currently revising the 2014 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) to reflect the new law’s requirements as well as technical corrections identified since publication of the final rule in November. The 2014 conversion factor is $35.8228.

Extension of Medicare Physician Work Geographic Adjustment Floor – The existing 1.0 floor on the physician work geographic practice cost index is extended through March 31, 2014.

Extension Related to Payments for Medicare Outpatient Therapy Services – There will be an extension of the exceptions process for outpatient therapy caps through March 31, 2014. In addition, the new law extends the application of the cap and threshold to therapy services furnished in a hospital outpatient department.

Extension of Ambulance Add-On Payments – Extension of the 3 percent increase in the ambulance fee schedule amounts for covered ground ambulance transports that originate in rural areas and the 2 percent increase for covered ground ambulance transports that originate in urban areas is extended through March 31, 2014. Also extended is the provision relating to payment for ground ambulance services that increases the base rate for transports originating in an area that is within the lowest 25th percentile of all rural areas arrayed by population density.

Extension of Medicare Inpatient Hospital Payment Adjustment for Low-Volume Hospitals – This provision extends the payment adjustment through March 31, 2014, retroactive to October 1, 2013.

Extension of the Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) Program – The MDH program provides enhanced payment to support small rural hospitals for which Medicare patients make up a significant percentage of inpatient days or discharges. This provision extends the MDH program until March 31, 2014, and is retroactive to October 1, 2013.

For more information, go to http://www.cms.gov/Outreach-and-Education/Outreach/FFSProvPartProg/Downloads/2013-12-27-standalone.pdf

Joint Commission Announces Diagnostic Imaging Standards Changes

Friday, December 20th, 2013

The Joint Commission has announced changes to its standards for accredited hospitals, critical access hospitals and ambulatory health care organizations that provide diagnostic imaging services. Areas addressed in the new and revised standards include minimum competency for radiology technologists, documentation of computer tomography radiation dose in the patient’s clinical record, management of safety risks in the magnetic resonance imaging environment, and other areas. The changes will be effective July 1, 2014.

For more information, go to http://www.jointcommission.org/standards_information/prepublication_standards.aspx

National Coordinator for Health IT Appointed

Thursday, December 19th, 2013

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology (ONC) has confirmed Karen DeSalvo, M.D. as its next National Coordinator. DeSalvo currently serves as the health commissioner for the city of New Orleans and as a senior health policy advisor to the Mayor. Farzad Mostashari, M.D., stepped down as national coordinator this fall; Jacob Reider, M.D., has been serving as Acting National Coordinator during the transition. DeSalvo will begin serving in her new role on January 13.