The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued its final payment rule for inpatient hospitals for FY22 this week, giving providers a 2.5 percent pay increase, and implementing a number of other regulatory changes. Of particular note, the rule puts in place a requirement for hospitals and long-term care providers to report on COVID vaccination rates among their workers, amid growing calls for healthcare organizations to mandate vaccines.
The final rule will also extend additional payments to hospitals for delivering COVID care until the end of the public health emergency is declared.
On top of a number of changes to quality reporting programs aimed at reducing the adverse impact of the pandemic on hospital metrics, CMS also used the final inpatient rule to begin acting on the Biden administration’s stated desire of improving health equity by adding a maternal morbidity measure to hospital quality reporting requirements.
The measure will require hospitals to report whether they participate in initiatives to improve perinatal health, an area in which unequal treatment has led to disproportionately adverse outcomes for women of color. In what will surely be welcome news for hospitals, CMS will no longer require disclosure of the contract terms providers strike with Medicare Advantage insurers, which was a key provision of Trump-era transparency regulations.
Nevertheless, based on earlier proposed changes to physician and outpatient surgery payment rules, and the President’s recent executive order on competition policy, we’d anticipate the Biden administration will continue to boost efforts to increase transparency of provider pricing.
First things first, however: there’s a pandemic to get through, and this final inpatient payment rule should largely come as good news to hospitals who are increasingly feeling the strain of a fourth surge of COVID cases.