MedPAC’s report to Congress: 7 takeaways

https://www.beckershospitalreview.com/finance/medpac-s-report-to-congress-7-takeaways.html?utm_medium=email

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The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission released its March 2020 report on Medicare payment policy to Congress, which includes a chapter analyzing the effects of hospital and physician consolidation in the healthcare sector.

Here are seven takeaways:

1. Medicare’s Insurance Trust Fund is likely to run out without changes. Trustees from Medicare estimate that the program’s Hospital Insurance Trust Fund, mostly funded through a payroll tax, will be depleted by 2026. To keep the fund solvent for the next 25 years, Medicare trustees advise that the payroll tax immediately be raised from 2.9 percent to 3.7 percent, or Part A spending to be reduced by 18 percent.

2. MedPAC recommends boosting payment rate for three sectors:

  • Hospitals. MedPAC recommended a 3.3 percent raise in Medicare payments for hospitals next year. The commission said it wants to give hospitals a 2 percent boost overall and tie the other 1.3 percent to quality metrics to motivate hospitals to reduce mortality and improve patient satisfaction. Currently, CMS has scheduled a 2.8 percent increase in 2021 Medicare payments.
  • Outpatient dialysis services. MedPAC recommended that the End Stage Renal Disease Prospective Payment System base payment rate is raised by the amount determined under current law. This is projected to be a boost of 2 percent
  • Long-term care hospitals. The commission recommended a 2 percent increase in the payment rates for long-term care hospitals in 2021.

3. MedPAC recommends unchanged payment rates for four sectors:

  • Physicians: Under current law, there is no update to the 2021 Medicare fee schedule base payment rate for physicians who treat Medicare patients. MedPAC is recommending that CMS keeps the physician rate the same as it is this year.
  • Surgery centers. MedPAC recommended eliminating an expected 2.8 percent payment rate bump for surgery centers next year. It said its decision was due to not having enough cost data from surgery centers.
  • Skilled nursing. MedPAC is recommending skilled nursing facilities receive no change to their base rate next year to better align payments with costs while exerting pressure on providers to keep their cost growth low.
  • Hospice. MedPAC recommends that the hospice payment rates in 2021 be held at their 2020 levels

4. MedPAC recommends payment rate reductions for two sectors: 

  • Home health. The commission recommended a 7 percent reduction in home health payment rates for 2021.
  • Inpatient rehabilitation hospitals. MedPAC is recommending that CMS reduce the payment rate to inpatient rehabilitation facilities by 5 percent for fiscal year 2021.

5. MedPAC builds on its recommendation to revamp quality programs. MedPAC is furthering its recommendation to replace Medicare’s four current hospital quality programs with a single hospital value incentive program. MedPAC said it believes that this recommendation would provide hospitals  higher aggregate payments than they would get under current law.

6. MedPAC’s findings on hospital and physician consolidation. MedPAC said that consolidation gives providers greater market power, which has a statistically significant association with higher profit margins for treating non-Medicare patients. Higher non-Medicare margins also are associated with higher standardized costs per discharge. But the direct association between market power and standardized costs per discharge is statistically insignificant, the commission found.

“The effect of consolidation on hospitals’ costs is not clear in theory or from our current analysis. From a theoretical standpoint, the merger of two hospitals could initially create some efficiencies and bargaining power with suppliers. But over time, higher prices from commercial payers could loosen hospitals’ budget constraints and lead to higher cost growth, thus offsetting any efficiency gains,” MedPAC’s report states.

7. MedPAC’s findings on the 340B Drug Discount Program. MedPAC was asked to analyze whether the availability of 340B drug discounts creates incentives for hospitals to choose more expensive products than they would without the program. MedPAC studied the effect of 340B market share on higher drug spending on cancer treatments between 2009 and 2017. The commission found that for two of the five cancer types studied, 340B participation boosted prices by about $300 per patient per month. However, the boost in spending attributed to 340B was much smaller than the general increase in oncology spending, which includes rising prices and the launch of new products with high drug prices. For example, cancer drug spending grew by more than $2,000 per patient month for patients with breast cancer, lung cancer, and leukemia/lymphoma.

“The MedPAC report released today uses rigorous analysis and finds little evidence 340B participation influences cancer drug spending. Modest differences may be attributable to the types of patients treated in 340B facilities. The safety-net hospitals that participate in the 340B drug-pricing program are essential providers of cancer care in this nation, especially to patients who are living with low incomes, those living with disabilities, and patients requiring more complex oncology care,” said Maureen Testoni, president and CEO of 340B Health, an association that represents more than 1,400 hospitals participating in the 340B program.

Access MedPAC’s full report here. 

 

 

 

 

MedPAC: 340B hospitals spent more on lung, prostate cancer drugs compared to other facilities

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals-health-systems/medpac-340b-hospitals-spent-more-cancer-drugs-compared-to-other-facilities?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiTTJaaE5EY3lZMlEzTVdZdyIsInQiOiI1UEZJUjBpbldUSVBteFl3OGpnd0FPRnIxMFJFUXIzSjE1YUJDMVdDSSsrdDlibDI1KzU5bXZsU1RIUjBZUWNPR2s1OTdwQXV5ZVY2cUhuWXkzYnpDWE55akhCczMxOVEyRWdpdkNYK1hKcjdIV01qNTdPemxyWkFVK1pDUmNzNyJ9&mrkid=959610

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Hospitals in the 340B drug discount program spent more on drugs for prostate and lung cancers compared to facilities not in the program, a new analysis found.

But the preliminary analysis from the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) couldn’t find that the controversial program incentivizes hospitals to pursue higher-priced drugs. The analysis, released Friday as part of MedPAC’s monthly meeting, was requested by Congress on the program, which has faced major cuts by the Trump administration.

Some lawmakers have argued that 340B, which offers safety-net hospitals discounts on drugs, has not worked as intended and led to hospitals specifically choosing higher-priced drugs to get a big discount.

So MedPAC looked at the spending from 2013 to 2017 of 340B and non-340B hospitals as well as physicians’ offices for five types of cancers: breast, colorectal, prostate, lung and leukemia and lymphoma.

MedPAC’s analysis found that 340B hospitals spent between 2% and 5% higher on average on cancer drugs than non-340B hospitals. But there were mixed results when 340B hospitals were compared to physicians’ offices, with 340B facilities spending 1% lower to 7% higher than physicians’ offices on cancer drugs.

The reason 340B hospitals spent more on cancer drugs than hospitals not in the program was linked to two types of cancer: lung and prostate.

For lung cancer, a possible reason for the higher spending is that a larger share of patients in 340B hospitals received new immuno-oncology therapies that are more expensive, MedPAC said. Prostate cancer also had higher drug prices per unit for both drugs in Medicare Part B, which reimburses for physician-administered drugs, and Part D.

However, MedPAC staff cautioned they couldn’t conclude 340B is incentivizing the spikes in spending.

The reason is “we lack access to the discount data,” said MedPAC staffer Shinobu Suzuki at the commission’s meeting Friday in Washington, D.C.

MedPAC also didn’t find that gaining 340B status led to a spike in average cancer drug spending, suggesting that 340B discounts “may not have had any effects on them,” the report said.

The analysis also found that the higher cancer spending would likely have a small, if any, impact on cost sharing for Medicare patients depending on the type of cancer and supplemental coverage.

The study will be finalized and likely included in MedPAC’s March report to Congress. It comes with some caveats, including a small sample size and that it did not examine the impact of a 22.5% cut to 340B payments that went into effect in 2018.

The hospital industry has been fighting the Trump administration in court over the cuts, which the industry claims are unlawful.

Despite the caveats, MedPAC’s findings could play a major part in lawmaker deliberations on the program, which some Republicans claim has gotten too big and led to hospitals bilking the federal government.

The pharmaceutical industry has also led an extensive campaign to shed more light on the program. 340B requires pharmaceutical companies to provide discounts to safety-net hospitals in exchange for participating in Medicaid.

The Government Accountability Office has also called for greater oversight of 340B.

340B industry group 340B Health praised the findings.

“The thoughtful analysis MedPAC presented today sheds important light on the role 340B hospitals play in treating people living with cancer,” said Maureen Testoni, 340B Health president, in a statement.

 

Nonprofit hospitals get bump in Moody’s ratings for 2020

https://www.healthcaredive.com/news/nonprofit-hospitals-get-bump-in-moodys-ratings-for-2020/568739/

UPDATE: Dec. 11, 2019: Fitch Ratings also changed its sector outlook for the U.S. nonprofit health systems market to stable from negative for 2020 in a report released Tuesday.

Dive Brief:

  • Next year should be kinder to nonprofit hospitals and health systems, with Moody’s Investors Service forecasting a 2% to 3% growth in operating cash flow next year, driven by stronger provider revenue due to Medicare and commercial reimbursement raises and growth in patient volumes.
  • Moody’s revised its 2020 outlook for the not-for-profit provider sector from negative to stable as a result, and expects to see increased consolidation as hospitals bid to gain “negotiating leverage with commercial insurers, achieve savings through economies of scale, and ensure a foothold in emerging offerings such as urgent care and telemedicine,” analysts wrote.​
  • That’s not to say health systems won’t continue to contend with sharp industry headwinds like rising labor costs and the aging population, along with uncertainty from up-in-the-air legislation, regulation and lawsuits.

Dive Insight:

High Medicare reimbursement rates should, along with slightly more favorable commercial reimbursements, drive sector revenue to jump 4% to 5%, Moody’s predicts. Medicare payment rates in 2020 are the most industry-friendly in a while, analysts say, at 3.1% for overall inpatient rates and 2.6% for outpatient.

Fitch Ratings, which also revised its sector outlook from negative to stable, noted balance sheet measures for the providers are now at levels not seen since before the Great Recession in 2007.

Expense management is also forecast to improve cash flow, though provider shortages will cause labor costs to grow.

A growth in the number of uninsured is projected to curb some of the gains expected under this positive forecast, however. The uninsured rate reached 13.7% at the end of 2018, ticking up from 12.2% in 2017 and a low of 10.6% in 2016, according to Gallup. Policy experts blame the elimination of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, along with other Trump administration policies destabilizing the market.

Other regulatory waves could also impact hospital margins next year.

Cuts to Medicaid disproportionate share payments are likely to be postponed until late 2020 at least, which will help hospitals serving a large number of low-income patients. The $4 billion payment reduction was supposed to go into effect in 2014, but lawmakers have delayed the unpopular cuts annually since.

On Nov. 21, the Senate approved a continuing resolution to fund the federal government through Dec. 20. The CR once again pushed back the trims to the Medicaid payments.

Trump administration policy requiring payers and providers to post secret negotiated rates online could help some hospitals and hurt others, with some health experts arguing it would stimulate competition through transparency and others warning it could cause prices across the board to rise.

Hospital lobbies filed a lawsuit Dec. 4 to stop the rule, arguing it violates the First Amendment and would put overly onerous administrative burdens on providers.

Cuts to the 340B Drug Discount program, meant to prop up hospitals with a large amount of uncompensated care, could also hurt the sector. The program generated an average savings of almost $12 million across all U.S. hospitals last year.

In May, a federal judge struck down planned HHS cuts to 340B, arguing the change was outside of the agency’s authority. However, CMS has said it plans to go through with the payment reductions in the final outpatient rule for 2020.

On the legislative side, the Republican state-led initiative to find the Affordable Care Act unconstitutional would shear an estimated 20 million Americans from coverage and raise premiums on millions more, hitting both hospitals and the consumer hard. ​

“The fate of the ACA will likely again rest with the Supreme Court,” Moody’s analysts said. “An adverse ruling there would have painful implications for hospitals if millions of individuals lose insurance,” and “coverage gains from Medicaid expansion would likely be lost.”

 

 

 

CMS retains 340B, site-neutral payment cuts in final hospital payment rule

https://www.fiercehealthcare.com/hospitals-health-systems/cms-retains-340b-site-neutral-payment-cuts-final-hospital-payment-rule?utm_medium=nl&utm_source=internal&mrkid=959610&mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWTJZd1pqWXpZbVUwWTJKbSIsInQiOiJLV2JJQWM1clQ3OVBiaURjdFVUUUg2K093U21XZm0zVHNPa1hTUjdTWEdxSWZpYklsako0TVMrZFYxazVGZHFkOHJ3M1pWNlwvYW5pVWpPcjM1TEtVRnErOWgxU3NKc1dcLzk3TnZTc1pLZVI0Ymcrb0V1ZEZ2eDh1djFwa1FlaW50In0%3D

billing statement from a doctor's office

The Trump administration finalized a hospital payment rule Friday that retains proposed cuts to off-campus clinics and the 340B drug discount program. 

The changes outlined in the hospital Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule come despite both cuts being struck down in legal challenges and amid major pushback from providers.

Site-neutral payments

The agency decided to move ahead with the two-year phase-in of the cuts to outpatient services for clinic visits furnished in an off-campus hospital outpatient setting. The goal is to bring payments to off-campus clinics in line with standalone physicians’ offices.

“With the completion of the two-year phase-in, the cost sharing will be reduced to $9, saving beneficiaries an average of $14 each time they visit an off-campus department for a clinic visit in [calendar year] 2020,” the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said in a fact sheet.

However, the two-year project that was supposed to start in 2019 has been halted because of a federal court ruling.

CMS decided to move forward with the cuts for off-campus clinics.

“The government has appeal rights, and is still evaluating the rulings and considering, at the time of this writing, whether to appeal the final judgment,” the agency said.

The American Hospital Association (AHA) said that the site-neutral payment rule was misguided and that CMS ignored the recent court ruling. 

“There are many real and crucial differences between hospital outpatient departments and the patient populations they serve and other sites of care,” said Tom Nickels, executive vice president of the AHA, in a statement.

CMS also finalized a proposed cut for the 340B program that cuts payments by 22.5% in 2020.

CMS has installed prior cuts in 2018 and 2019 to the program that requires drug companies to provide discounts to safety-net hospitals in exchange for getting their products covered on Medicaid.

However, a court ruling has struck down the cuts, and CMS is currently appealing the decision.

CMS said that it hopes to conduct a 340B hospital survey to collect drug acquisition cost data for 2018 and 2019, and the survey will craft a remedy if the appeal doesn’t go their way.

“In the event the 340B hospital survey data are not used to devise a remedy, we intend to consider the public input to inform the steps we would take to propose a remedy for CYs 2018 and 2019 in the CY 2021 rulemaking,” the agency said.

Hospital groups commented that CMS should drop both the 340B and site-neutral cuts because of the legal challenges.

Several groups weren’t happy that the cuts were still there.

“The agency also prolongs confusion and uncertainty for hospitals by maintaining unlawful policies it has been told to abandon in clear judicial directives,” said Beth Feldpush, senior vice president of policy and advocacy for America’s Essential Hospitals, in a statement Friday.

The hospital-backed group 340B Health added that CMS needs to stop this “unfunny version of ‘Groundhog Day’ and restore Medicare payments for 340B hospitals to their legal, statutory level.”

 

 

 

Hospitals, insurers object to rule posting their negotiated rates

https://www.healthcarefinancenews.com/news/hospitals-object-posting-negotiated-rates-and-other-payment-rules?mkt_tok=eyJpIjoiWkdNMU56WmxabVl3TWpRMSIsInQiOiI0dlhaYUJpT2xBU0FqeDNmWkRlZHVZYnRsZ2xBK3pxMmN6RG5kS3Q1UWgrWFYyNllIK2lLZEYzclRDWUYyTFwvOGdhUzRVSnlscG5MQjBtY0NwT2d1TjZHdXJYRUlYRGszVEhrQmY5b0xhRDlFTWNTNUEwWnVvWGUwZXE3ME9kdGgifQ%3D%3D

CMS is proposing that hospitals make public their payer-specific negotiated charges for a limited set of “shoppable” services.

Hospitals and insurers have made clear their opposition to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services proposed rule requiring the disclosure of their privately negotiated contract rates.

CMS is proposing that hospitals make public their payer-specific negotiated charges for a limited set of “shoppable” services or face civil monetary penalties, in a rule to go into effect on January 1, 2020. Comments were due by September 27.

Under the rule, hospitals would display payer-specific negotiated charges for at least 300 shoppable services, including 70 selected by CMS and 230 by the provider.

The American Hospital Association called it the wrong approach, even though it said it supported ensuring patients have the information they need, including knowing what their expected out-of-pocket costs would be. However, the AHA said, “Instead of helping patients estimate their out-of-pocket obligations, it would introduce confusion and fuel anticompetitive behavior among commercial health insurers in an already highly-concentrated insurance industry, seriously limiting the choices available to patients.”

America’s Essential Hospitals said, “We are particularly concerned that the agency’s proposals regarding the public posting of charges, in particular the posting of negotiated rates, offer little benefit to the consumer, add substantial burden to hospitals, and pose harm to competition, potentially driving up prices.”

America’s Health Insurance plans said that forcing disclosure of privately and competitively negotiated rates will not provide consumers with information that is actionable or helpful. I

“Instead,”AHIP said, “it will hamper competitive negotiations and push healthcare prices and premiums higher for patients, consumers, businesses and taxpayers. This proposed rule also has significant implications for, and is interconnected with, other proposed rules regarding interoperability of health care data. We are concerned that unknown entities will have open access to the data, with few restrictions on how they may use it.”

WHY THIS MATTERS

CMS released the proposals on July 29 in the 2020 hospital outpatient prospective payment and ambulatory surgical center payment rule.

The rule also has three additional proposed policies that run afoul of the law, the AHA said.

Specifically, the AHA opposes completion of the phase-in of payment reductions for the hospital outpatient clinic visit in excepted off-campus provider-based departments to the “physician fee schedule equivalent” rate of 40% of the outpatient prospective payment system rate.

The AHA said the proposal “exceeds the Administration’s legal authority and should be abandoned.”

The AHA has already won a case in court on the government’s site neutral payment policy.

“On the clinic visit policy, we remind CMS that the agency was recently found by the courts to have exceeded its statutory authority when it cut the payment rate for clinic services at excepted off-campus provider-based departments,” the AHA said.

Hospitals also object to continuing the current policy that pays for separately payable drugs acquired through the 340B drug savings program at the rate of average sales price minus 22.5%.

And the AHA objects to the implementation of a prior authorization process for five categories of outpatient department services.

THE LARGER TREND

On September 17, a federal judge ruled in favor of the AHA and hospital organizations, saying CMS exceeded its statutory authority when it reduced payments for hospital outpatient services provided in off-campus provider-based departments that were grandfathered under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

The AHA, joined by the Association of American Medical Colleges and several member hospitals, had filed the lawsuit in December.

ON THE RECORD

America’s Essential Hospitals said, “These cuts deter hospitals from expanding access in communities with the most need for healthcare services and run counter to CMS’ goal of integrated, coordinated healthcare.

“Taken together, these proposals would have a chilling effect on beneficiary access to care while also increasing regulatory burden,” the AHA said.