On July 1, CMS issued a proposed rule that would trim Medicare payments to home health agencies by 0.3% in 2015.  The cut reflects the second of four years of "rebasing" home health payments as required by the ACA. The CMS proposal also changes the rules regarding face-to-face encounters between Medicare beneficiaries and providers, which were created under the ACA.  Under the proposal, CMS would eliminate the narrative requirement.  However, a physician would still be required to certify that a face-to-face patient encounter occurred and document the date of the encounter as part of the certification of eligibility. 

The proposal will be published in the July 7 Federal Register. Comments on the proposal (CMS-1611-P) are due September 2, 2014, and the Final Rule will take effect beginning 2015.

CMS Issues DME, Dialysis Payment Update

On July 2, CMS released a proposed rule governing 2015 Medicare payments to renal dialysis providers and suppliers of durable medical equipment ("DME").  Basic payment rates in 2015 would remain the same as in 2014.  The proposal also addresses the methods used to set payment rates in areas where a DME competitive bidding program hasn't been implemented. CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule until September 2, 2014.  The proposed rule will appear in the July 11, 2014 Federal Register.

CMS Extends Joint Commission's Deeming Authority

Late last week, CMS renewed for six years the Joint Commission as a national accrediting organization for hospitals that wish to participate in the Medicare or Medicaid program. CMS deems organizations accredited by an approved accrediting organization to be in compliance with all Medicare conditions of participation.

Having deeming authority means the Joint Commission can officially determine which facilities meet Medicare and Medicaid certification requirements. The Joint Commission, which has held this responsibility since 1965, also has deeming authority over ambulatory surgery centers, critical access hospitals, durable medical equipment suppliers, home health, hospice and laboratories.

HHS Awards Disaster Preparedness Grants

On July 1, HHS announced it has awarded $840 million to state and local health systems to help them prepare for emergencies. The grant funds are distributed through two federal preparedness programs: the Hospital Preparedness Program ("HPP") and the Public Health Emergency Preparedness ("PHEP") programs. The HPP, which supports building health-related community coalitions that collaborate on emergency planning, was awarded $228.5 million. PHEP, which helps improve emergency response on the state and local levels, was awarded $611.75 million.

Bills Introduced This Week

The House and Senate were out of session this week for the Fourth of July holiday. 

Next Week in Washington

The House and Senate return on July 8 and will continue work on FY 2015 appropriations bills. Also, proposed rules covering hospital inpatient and outpatient payment updates, which are normally published in July, could be released.