New CMS payment rule is good news, bad news for hospitals

https://mailchi.mp/b5daf4456328/the-weekly-gist-july-23-2021?e=d1e747d2d8

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services - Wikipedia

Two major policy developments emerged from this week’s release by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) of the FY22 proposed rule governing payment for hospital outpatient services and ambulatory surgical centers.

First, CMS proposes to dramatically increase the financial penalties assessed to hospitals that fail to adequately reveal prices for their services, a requirement first put in place by the Trump administration. According to a report by the consumer group Patient Rights Advocate, only 5.6 percent of a random sample of 500 hospitals were in full compliance with the transparency requirement six months after the regulation came into effect, with many instead choosing to pay the $300 per hospital per day penalty associated with noncompliance. The new CMS regulation proposes to scale the assessed penalties in accordance with hospital size, with larger hospitals liable for up to $2M in annual penalties, a substantial increase from the earlier $109,500 maximum annual fine. In a press release, the agency said it “takes seriously concerns it has heard from consumers that hospitals are not making clear, accessible pricing information available online, as they have been required to do since January 1, 2021.” In a statement, the AHA stated that it was “deeply concerned” about the proposal, “particularly in light of substantial uncertainty in the interpretation of the rules.” The penalty hike is a clear signal that the Biden administration plans to put teeth behind its new push for more competition in healthcare, which was a major focus of the President’s recent executive order. We’d expect to see most hospitals and health systems quickly move to comply with the transparency rule, given the size of potential penalties.
 
More heartening to hospitals was CMS’ proposal to roll back changes the Trump administration made, aimed at shifting certain surgical procedures into lower cost, ambulatory settings. The agency proposed halting the elimination of the Inpatient Only (IPO) list, which specifies surgeries CMS will only pay for if they are performed in an inpatient hospital. Citing patient safety concerns, CMS noted that the phased elimination of the IPO list, which began this year, was undertaken without evaluating whether individual procedures could be safely moved to an outpatient setting. Nearly 300 musculoskeletal procedures have already been eliminated from the list, and will now be added back to the list for 2022, keeping the rest of the list intact while CMS undertakes a formal process to review each procedure. Longer term, we’d anticipate that CMS will look to continue the elimination of inpatient-only restrictions on surgeries, as well as pursuing other policies (such as site-neutral payment) that level the playing field between hospitals and lower-cost outpatient providers. 

For now, hospitals will enjoy a little more breathing room to plan for the financial consequences of that inevitable shift.

Hospitals lose jobs for 4th straight month

New FBI Data Show Violent Crime Continued Downward Trend in 2014 |  FreedomWorks

Hospitals lost 5,800 jobs in April, marking the fourth month of job loss this year, according to the latest jobs report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The April count compares to 600 hospital jobs lost in March, 2,200 jobs lost in February and 2,100 jobs lost in January. Before January, the last job loss was in September, when hospitals lost 6,400 jobs.

Overall, healthcare lost 4,100 jobs last month — compared to 11,500 jobs added in March — and employment in the industry is down by 542,000 since February 2020.

Within ambulatory healthcare services, dentist offices saw 3,700 added jobs; physician offices saw 11,300 job gains; and home healthcare services lost 6,700 jobs in April. 

Nursing and residential care facilities lost 19,500 jobs last month, compared to 3,200 jobs lost the month prior.

The U.S. gained 266,000 in April after gaining 916,000 jobs in March. The unemployment rate was 6.1 percent last month, compared to 6 percent in March.

To view the full jobs report, click here.

MedPAC calls for 2% bump to hospital payments, no update for docs in 2022

MedPAC March 2019 Report to the Congress Released - ehospice

A key Medicare advisory panel is calling for a 2% bump to Medicare payments for acute care hospitals for 2022 but no hike for physicians.

The report, released Monday from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC)—which recommends payment policies to Congress—bases payment rate recommendations on data from 2019. However, the commission did factor in the pandemic when evaluating the payment rates and other policies in the report to Congress, including whether policies should be permanent or temporary.

“The financial stress on providers is unpredictable, although it has been alleviated to some extent by government assistance and rebounding service utilization levels,” the report said.

MedPAC recommended that targeted and temporary funding policies are the best way to help providers rather than a permanent hike for payments that gets increased over time.

“Overall, these recommendations would reduce Medicare spending while preserving beneficiaries’ access to high-quality care,” the report added.

MedPAC expects the effects of the pandemic, which have hurt provider finances due to a drop in healthcare use, to persist into 2021 but to be temporary.

It calls for a 2% update for inpatient and outpatient services for 2022, the same increase it recommended for 2021.

The latest report recommends no update for physicians and other professionals. The panel also does not want any hikes for four payment systems: ambulatory surgical centers, outpatient dialysis facilities, skilled nursing facilities and hospices.

MedPAC also recommends Congress reduce the aggregate hospice cap by 20% and that “ambulatory surgery centers be required to report cost data to [Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)],” the report said.

But it does call for long-term care hospitals to get a 2% increase and to reduce payments by 5% for home health and inpatient rehabilitation facilities.

The panel also explores the effects of any policies implemented under the COVID-19 public health emergency, which is likely to extend through 2021 and could continue into 2022.

For instance, CMS used the public health emergency to greatly expand the flexibility for providers to be reimbursed for telehealth services. Use of telehealth exploded during the pandemic after hesitancy among patients to go to the doctor’s office or hospital for care.

“Without legislative action, many of the changes will expire at the end of the [public health emergency],” the report said.

MedPAC recommends Congress temporarily continue some of the telehealth expansions for one to two years after the public health emergency ends. This will give lawmakers more time to gather evidence on the impact of telehealth on quality and Medicare spending.

“During this limited period, Medicare should temporarily pay for specified telehealth services provided to all beneficiaries regardless of their location, and it should continue to cover certain newly-covered telehealth services and certain audio-only telehealth services if there is potential for clinical benefit,” according to a release on the report.

After the public health emergency ends, Medicare should also return to paying the physician fee schedule’s facility rate for any telehealth services. This will ensure Medicare can collect data on the cost for providing the services.

“Providers should not be allowed to reduce or waive beneficiary cost-sharing for telehealth services after the [public health emergency],” the report said. “CMS should also implement other safeguards to protect the Medicare program and its beneficiaries from unnecessary spending and potential fraud related to telehealth.”

Walmart is slowing its ambitious push into healthcare, employees and leaked documents reveal

https://www.businessinsider.com/walmart-slowing-healthcare-clinics-strategy-2021-2

Walmart Health

In 2018, Walmart‘s board of directors approved a bold plan to scale to 4,000 clinics by 2029.

The timeline laid out a net investment of $3 billion, not counting profits from the clinics, and a rollout strategy, according to a February 2019 presentation to the board obtained by Insider.

The vision was backed by former Walmart US CEO Greg Foran, the health team’s biggest champion who left Walmart in 2019. And it was dreamed up by Sean Slovenski, who Foran asked to come up with a big idea in healthcare as Walmart’s biggest competitors were pushing deeper into the space.

Now those leaders have been replaced by a team with a different philosophy, and the strategy is in flux at the same time Walmart is dealing with the pandemic and focusing on e-commerce, Insider has learned through conversations with eight former and current employees. 

One coalition inside Walmart is happy with the change of pace —the retailer has 20 clinics currently, with at least 15 slotted for 2021 — because healthcare is hard, and the clinics are a work in progress.

Another coalition is frustrated by what they see as a stark departure from the initial goal to provide inexpensive care for people around the US quickly as possible.

Walmart didn’t comment on whether the rollout was slowing, but said it continued to “experiment” with Walmart Health centers and that the pandemic had reaffirmed its commitment to healthcare. It pointed to the launch of pharmacy curbside delivery, COVID-19 testing sites, and vaccine administration as evidence.

Dubai’s Super-Ambulance Is a Mini Hospital-on-Wheels with an Operating Room and X-Ray Unit

https://www.techthatmatters.com/dubais-super-ambulance-is-a-mini-hospital-on-wheels-with-an-operating-room-and-x-ray-unit/?fbclid=IwAR0MQS2H3VZyMPozU_MqVSZ2BeYDKOelYqvWi6MHBLiMguiN9eIe7cjoF0U

Dubai’s Super-Ambulance Is a Mini Hospital-on-Wheels with an Operating Room and X-Ray Unit

Dubai is proud to introduce its impressive fleet of the “world’s largest ambulances,” or “Mercedes-Benz large-capacity ambulances” which were created to give rapid medical assistance in the event of major emergencies with large numbers of causalities. These new emergency vehicles offer a fully-equipped, mobile clinic with an intensive-care unit and an operating room.

Equipped with an X-ray unit and ultrasonic equipment for further evaluation, each super ambulance bus carries 12,000 liters of oxygen, which ensures a dependable supply for up to three days. With the press of a button, oxygen masks fall from special holders, and the oxygen flow to each mask can be individually controlled.

They’re also equipped with an ECG and an InSpectra shock monitor, which monitors the oxygen saturation in tissue-matter and warns doctors of the onset of shock minutes before it occurs. This unit can also detect and monitor internal bleeding. If an emergency caesarian birth is needed, essential obstetrical instruments, including an incubator, are on board.

 

 

 

 

Hospitals hit bump, but healthcare jobs showed steady growth in July

https://www.healthcaredive.com/trendline/labor/28/#story-1

Image result for hospital job growth

Dive Brief:

  • A total of 30,000 healthcare jobs were added to the U.S. labor rolls in July, representing 18% of all new jobs added during the month, according to the Department of Labor.
  • Virtually all of the healthcare job growth occurred in ambulatory care — that segment accounted for 29,000 new jobs alone.
  • The weak spot was in hospital job growth, which was down by 2,000 jobs from the month before.

Dive Insight:

Hospitals are often the biggest employers in many towns and medium-sized cities, but their job creation has been uneven at best in recent months. According to an analyst note from Jefferies, employment by hospitals dropped by 2,000 on a seasonally adjusted basis, although that grew to a net 1,000 new jobs on an unadjusted basis.

By comparison, hospitals added a seasonally adjusted 9,000 new jobs in June, 25,000 on an unadjusted basis. However, much of that boost was created by the minting of new residents who just graduated from medical schools.

Hospital employment is still growing at a 1.8% annual clip (compared to 1.4% as of July 2018), although that’s down from the 2.1% rate reported in April.

“Overall, healthcare employment growth continues to demonstrate strong momentum, but hospital jobs growth appears to be moderating,” the analysts said. Inpatient providers account for more than 5.2 million jobs nationwide.

However, Jefferies’ analysts believe that healthcare will continue to be a big job engine for the foreseeable future.

“We believe the supply of clinical labor continues to struggle to keep pace with solid demand growth, resulting in tight clinician labor markets and strong demand for healthcare temp staffing services,” they said.

Although healthcare job growth has been extremely robust, wages have been stagnant in recent years, a phenomenon attributed in part to continued consolidation among industry players.

The ambulatory care segment has been growing rapidly in recent years. Its addition of 29,000 new jobs was up from 17,000 in June, and significantly outpaced the year-to-date average monthly growth of 22,000.

Home healthcare services added 11,000 new jobs last month alone — the highest rate since 2017. The segment’s annual growth rate is currently 5.3%, up from 3.2% in July 2018.

The nursing home segment added another 1,000 jobs.

 

 

Not-for-profit hospitals are financially resilient due to strong management, S&P Global Ratings says.

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/not-profit-hospitals-and-health-systems-have-shown-financial-resilience-due-strong-management?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTmpJME5qVTNOVEU1TXpRdyIsInQiOiJDdUIxQ1NKdng1b0FkQ1wvQlwvNFBTc1JIbmVwYUZOeUhCZ3VlNlZzdmhNbkhBQlhnXC9JeTI4c2NDeE80REk0YWJ1Nk1jSzl4QjFDbjFMTkxKdmVCblY1RUlSYTIwUmlhSEJ6VXpkOUZZdytUWDhaV1poaEljcVh5ZFdEOUdVZlQzZyJ9

The broad balance sheet shows hospitals are improving financial strength and flexibility compared to two decades ago.

Not-for-profit hospitals and health systems are financially keeping up with changes in the healthcare landscape, according to a new S&P Global Ratings report.

S&P Global Ratings said it believes the not-for-profit healthcare sector has been incredibly resilient over the past two decades, in large part due to strong management and governance.

The broad balance sheet shows improved financial strength and flexibility compared to two decades ago, as is also the case for maximum annual debt service coverage.

Hospitals have done this throughout a time when changes in government policy, reimbursement and the move to value-based care have been factors in their operating performance and financial position. The report shows more variability in operating revenue and excess margins. 

S&P Global looked at providers rated from BBB+ to AA. The stronger providers have seen margin improvement, while weaker rated providers have been generally stable with some pockets of weakness at the lowest reported rating levels, the report said.

WHY THIS MATTERS

Health system challenges include increasing levels of competition and disruption; consumerism and the heightened focus on quality measures and outcomes; the rapid growth in technology and big data analytics; the rise of population health and changes in payment delivery models; and a fundamental shift in how and where patients are treated.

“To be successful, provider management teams must adapt and adjust or run the risk of being left behind,” the credit analysts said.

A factor benefiting health systems has been the low interest rate environment. This has allowed hospitals to finance strategic capital assets, while keeping carrying costs at very manageable levels.

Industry consolidation has had a favorable impact on enterprise profiles, the report said.  While ample “horizontal” competition exists for both hospitals and health systems, in many markets consolidation has made it more manageable.

But competition between hospitals and health systems and new market entrants seeking to control niche services or some aspect of ambulatory care services is presenting new and rapidly evolving threats to enterprise profiles, the report said.

OUTCOMES

Net patient service revenue has risen across all S&P rated categories for both stand-alone and system providers. This is due to a variety of reasons, including the addition of more business lines such as physician and insurance services, and increased industry consolidation;

Operating and excess margins are more complicated, highlighting the ebb and flow of industry trends, including increased joint venture and affiliation activity and investment market volatility.

Maximum annual debt service coverage has grown in all but the weakest rated levels, highlighting an improving balance between operational performance and debt.

Growth in days’ cash on hand has been a universal success even as capital expenditures remain robust.

Debt levels have been favorable with an improved cushion ratio and declining debt as a percentage of capitalization, both well-established trends.

TREND

Momentum continues to build for major legislative and regulatory changes at both the national and state level.

Many of the hospitals and health systems in S&P Global’s rated portfolio have navigated through numerous changes. Historically, a review of ratios over time demonstrates that providers have responded well to change as a group, although results have varied among individual organizations.

While credit quality can and will change over time,  the majority of the rated portfolio is well-positioned to compete effectively as new strategies are required, the analysts said.

S&P Global Ratings analyzes and publishes not-for-profit healthcare median ratios annually, and has been doing so for over 20 years.

ON THE RECORD

“In our view, senior leadership and management teams have provided guidance and direction through a series of difficult and changing periods and have emerged as generally stronger organizations from a financial profile standpoint,” the credit analysts said. “We believe the vast majority of rated hospitals and health systems have the financial discipline and expertise to navigate the challenges over the next decade and beyond, and while there may be some movement in underlying trends in these key metrics, the overall financial outlook, barring any significant shocks from policy or macroeconomic shifts, should remain generally consistent.”