CMS Reopens Application Period for Meaningful Use Hardship Exceptions

On Tuesday, October 7, CMS announced that eligible providers can continue applying for a hardship exception to avoid FY 2015 penalties for not demonstrating meaningful use of electronic health records.  The new deadline will be November 30, 2014.  Previously, the hardship exception application deadline was April 1, 2014 for eligible hospitals and July 1, 2014 for eligible professionals. 

The reopened application submission period is for eligible providers that have been:  (1) unable to fully implement 2014 certified EHR technology due to delays in 2014 EHR availability; and (2) were unable to attest by July 1, 2014 under the flexibility options provided in CMS’s 2014 EHR Flexibility Rule.

HHS Announces 2015 Medicare Part A and B Deductible Rates

On Thursday, October 9, HHS announced the 2015 standard premium and deductible rates for Medicare Parts A and B.  The Medicare Part A deductible that beneficiaries pay when admitted to the hospital will be $1,260, an increase of $44 from the 2014 rate of $1,216.  The Part A deductible covers beneficiaries’ share of costs for the first 60 days of Medicare-covered inpatient hospital care.  For hospital stays between 61 through 90 days, beneficiaries must pay an additional $315 per day.

HHS also announced that the Part B premium and deductible will remain unchanged for 2015.  The monthly premium and deductible will remain the same as 2014 at $104.90 and $147 respectively. Medicare Part B covers outpatient hospital services, physicians’ services, certain home health services and durable medical equipment.

CMS Expands Post-Acute Care Regulations

On Monday, October 6, CMS announced the expansion of the agency’s Five-Star Quality Rating System for nursing homes and proposed new conditions of participation for home health agencies.

Starting in January 2015, CMS will implement changes to the nursing home Five-Star Quality Rating System, which is intended to help consumers compare nursing homes.  The changes are intended to increase both the number and type of quality measures used in the five-star rating system.  The Nursing Home Compare website gives each nursing home a rating between one and five stars based on health inspections, staffing and performance on quality measures.

In the release, CMS also announced a proposed rule creating new conditions of participation for home health care providers in Medicare.  The conditions include an emphasis on patient-centered care that is intended to focus on the whole person, not just the health condition that triggered the home health event.  This proposed rule represents the first update to the Home Health Agency Conditions of Participation since 1989.

Senate Letter Asks for Better CMS Consideration of Rural Health Needs

On Thursday, October 9, 34 senators wrote to CMS, asking the agency to better account for rural providers’ needs in the rulemaking process.  The letter, which included 19 Republicans, highlighted recent CMS policies such as the 96-hour rule and the outpatient therapy supervision requirement as problematic to rural providers.

Specifically, the senators asked CMS to share additional information regarding the process for considering and incorporating the rule impact throughout the rulemaking process and the metrics and surveillance of rural health care systems that are used to inform policy analysis.  The letter was led by Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and John Thune (R-SD).

Health Care-Related Bills Introduced This Week

There were no health care-related bills introduced this week.

Next Week in Congress

Congress remains out of session ahead of the November midterm elections.