The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last week that they will soon require the bundling of reimbursements for hip and knee surgeries, according to an article yesterday on Health Leaders Media.com.
The article, by Gregory A. Freeman, stated that hospitals and health systems will respond quickly and ruthlessly to the CMS announcement.
According to a former CMS official cited in the article, mandatory bundled payments for hip and knee surgeries would shutter one in four skilled nursing facilities and trigger “demand destruction in areas such as diagnostic testing, hospital stays, and avoidable readmissions.”
The move by CMS is not surprising, says Mark Bogen senior vice president of finance and CFO at South Nassau Communities Hospital on New York’s Long Island.
Bogen referenced the initial demonstration project set up through CMS whereby many providers selected the DRG’s (Diagnostic Related Groups) 469 and470 (major joint replacement or reattachment of lower extremities, with or without major complications or comorbities), as a way to test moving forward to a value-based payment system.
CMS demonstrated through this project that more than half of the cost of providing care for joint replacement occurred post-surgery, Bogen stated, and that the bulk of the cost occurred in either the acute inpatient rehab units or sub-acute rehab units of skilled nursing facilities (SNF’s).
Deidre Baggot, former lead of CMS’s Acute Care Episode Demonstration (ACE) Bundled Payment Pilot, said the evidence to support bundled payments as a more cost-effective alternative to traditional fee-for-service is clear.
Baggot also said that on the hospital side, we can expect to see demand destruction in areas such as diagnostic testing, hospital stays, and avoidable readmissions, which she says is a good thing.
“Post-acute providers will see a significant hit to inpatient rehab and skilled nursing facility utilization as providers search for lower cost alternatives such as home health services.
David Friend, consulting managing director with the Center for Healthcare Excellence and Innovation at BDO Consulting, said that hospitals are likely going to cut their one- and two-star SNFs to mitigate the risk of penalties during the post-discharge period.
Twenty-five percent of the SNFs are expected to close soon, Friend noted, while medically advanced SNFs will flourish.
Another way the bundling of reimbursements will be disruptive is that rather than having a “blank check for services”, reimbursements will be based on a fixed amount of money, says Mike Lessila, director of business development with Vestica Healthcare.
Lessila said that if hospital systems successfully complete the episode of care for less than the contracted cost, they gain financial profit, but if problems arise due to poor episode management, a preventable hospital readmission, or another complication such as a hospital-acquired infection, the provider will bear the cost of fixing them as well as penalties from CMS.
Finally, bundled payments introduce several complexities to care that hospital systems must deal with, said Lessila. One complexity is that hospital systems must think through its care coordination for these procedures, or the likelihood of failure is high.
Additional resources will be required to ensure the patients’ experiences are good and they follow all of the recommended steps to ensure a successful episode. Bundling will also motivate providers and facilities performing the services to streamline and improve communication.
Lessila said that “financial administration of the bundle becomes far more difficult since a single bundle procedure will involve payments to one or many physicians, medical devices and hospital facility charges. The hospital system must understand who gets paid how much and in what form, and be able to track all of the details to determine whether the bundle is profitable or not in the end.”
What does this mean to you?
The closing of skilled nursing facilities, even one- or two-star facilities will back up the rehab process, not only for general health care, but for workers’ comp, since hip and knee surgeries are common procedures in workers’ comp claims.
Diagnostic testing, hospital stays and avoidable readmissions will also impact the claims process for workers’ comp, and may add more costs to the total hospital bill that employers and insurers will pay.
The confusion that may result from basing the reimbursement on a fixed amount rather than a blank check will force the hospital systems taking a greater financial risk and guaranteeing the outcome of the surgery.
Lastly, the complexities of bundling will impact the financial administration of hospital systems, with most legacy billing systems unable to administer these contracts and aggregate the data, according to Lessila.
What does this mean for medical travel?
The disruptive effects of bundled payments may make it possible to implement medical travel into workers’ comp since there is a clear beginning, middle and end to the episode that can be better managed by facilities not covered by CMS rules that will bottleneck the process of adjudicating and settling claims.
But this will only happen when the medical travel industry convinces the workers’ comp industry and employers that they can provide the required procedures at a lower cost than even bundled payments can offer, and with a better guarantee of positive outcomes.
In my article, “What Role Can Medical Tourism Play in Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation for Workers’ Compensation?”, I said that medical tourism can package rehabilitation and physical therapy services the same way the other medical services are packaged, along with the cost of treatment, airfare and accommodations.
Medical travel facilities can take up the slack from the shuttered skilled nursing facilities that may result from the implementation of bundled payments. The medical travel industry and their destination partners should consider offering their services as a better alternative.
I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.
Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.