CMS Will Create Five-Star Ratings for Hospitals and Other Health Providers

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ("CMS") recently announced it will create a five-star rating system for hospitals, home health agencies and dialysis providers.  CMS plans to begin publishing star ratings by the end of 2014 or early 2015.  The ratings will be published on each of the "compare" websites:  Hospitals Compare, Home Health Compare and Dialysis Facility Compare. 

Star ratings are currently used by the agency to rank Medicare Advantage plans and nursing homes.  In February, CMS announced that its Physician Compare website also would start including star ratings on certain quality measures.  CMS has not provided information on how the agency will determine what each star will mean.  The agency has said it expects a full transition to star ratings by 2016. 

CBO Raises Price Tag for SGR Repeal

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office ("CBO") released a supplementary budget document that shows freezing doctors' Medicare payments for a decade will cost $9 billion more than projected two months ago.  Keeping doctors' payments level from 2015 to 2024 instead of following the cuts mandated by the Sustainable Growth Rate ("SGR") formula will cost $124 billion, not $115 billion, the CBO estimates.

Also, in an updated budget baseline, CBO said it now expects higher spending on Medicare Parts A and B from 2015 through 2017.  The new cost estimate comes just weeks after Congress failed to pass a bipartisan, bicameral bill repealing and replacing the SGR because lawmakers couldn't agree on how to pay for it.

CBO Lowers Cost Estimate for Health Law Coverage

The coverage provisions in the Affordable Care Act ("ACA") will cost $5 billion less than prior estimates, according to an update from the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation. The coverage provisions in the ACA will cost the government $36 billion this year, which is $5 billion less than the CBO and JCT estimated in February, and the law's 10-year cost is $1.383 trillion, which is $104 billion less than prior estimates. The estimates reflect changes since the agencies last projected ACA costs in February.

CMS Proposes Updated Safety Requirements for Health Care Facilities 

On Tuesday, CMS published a proposed rule to update the safety standards for certain health care facilities participating in Medicare programs.  The updated requirements are designed to ensure the ongoing health and safety of patients and staff. Specifically, the rule proposes to adopt the National Fire Protection Association's 2012 edition of the Life Safety Code and the Health Care Facilities Code.

The new edition of the Life Safety Code applies to: hospitals, long-term care facilities, critical access hospitals, Programs for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly, religious non-medical health care institutions, hospice inpatient facilities, ambulatory surgical centers and intermediate care facilities for individuals with intellectual disabilities. 

Bills Introduced This Week

Congress was out for recess; therefore, no legislation was introduced this week.  

Next Week in Congress

The House and Senate will continue to be on recess but will return the week of April 28. This Week in Washington will not be published until May 2 unless developments warrant it.