FierceHealthcare.com today reported that CMS (those lovely folks with all them rules), launched three new policies Tuesday that continue the push toward value-based care, rewarding hospitals that work with physicians and other providers to avoid complications, prevent readmissions and speed recovery.
The newly finalized policies are meant to improve cardiac and orthopedic care, and also create an accountable care organization (ACO) track for small practices, according to the report.
There will be three new cardiac care payment models for hospitals and clinicians who treat patients for heart attacks, heart surgery to bypass blocked coronary arteries, or cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack or heart surgery.
Federal officials said that the cost of their care…varied by 50% across hospitals and the share of patients readmitted to the hospital within 30 days also varied by 50%. Medicare, the article points out, spent more than $6 billion in 2014 for care provided to 200,000 Medicare patients who were hospitalized for heart attack treatment or underwent bypass surgery.
As for orthopedic care, the new payment model is for physicians and hospitals that provide care to patients who receive surgery after a hip fracture, other than hip replacement.
They also finalized updates to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model, which began earlier this year.
So far, that’s three models. But wait, there are more where those came from.
There’s the new Medicare ACO Track 1+ Model, that has a more limited downside risk than other tracks in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (another model I discussed a while back in the post, “Shared Savings ACO Program reaps the most for Primary-care Physicians“).
These new five-year models provide clinicians with other ways to qualify for a 5% incentive payment through the Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) path under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and the Quality Payment Program. (three more models — so many, in fact, I am losing count)
Why am I pointing out the problem with the release of new payment models?
I’ll tell you why. When I began my MHA (Masters in Health Administration) degree program, I took an online elective on Healthcare Quality. The textbook we read discussed how CMS over a period of several decades, created and instituted so many models and programs, that it made me wonder why our health care system was so complex, expensive and so out of whack compared to health care systems of other industrialized countries.
The answer was simple. Too many models, programs, rules, and so on that only gum up the works and make real reform not only impossible, but even more remote a possibility as more of these inane models are added to what is already a broken system.
Winston Churchill said that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after all the other things were tried. We are still on the trying part, and I am afraid we will never get to where Sir Winston said we would.
Four months ago today, I wrote a piece called, “CMS to Require Bundling of Reimbursements for Hip and Knee Surgery”, that said the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will require the bundling of reimbursements for hip and knee surgeries.
Today, Health Affairs blog published an article reporting that CMS has recently published the final rule for the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model, which is a mandatory bundled payment model for lower extremity joint replacement (LEJR) services in certain geographic areas.
The article, by Patrick H. Conway, Rahul Rajkuma, Amy Bassano, Matthew Press, Claire Schreiber and Gabriel Scott, said that hip and knee replacements are the most common inpatient surgery procedures for Medicare beneficiaries, and can require long recovery and rehab periods.
The authors said that in 2014, more than 400,000 beneficiaries received hip or knee replacement, which cost more than $7 billion just for hospitalization.
They also reported that the quality and cost of care for these surgeries varied significantly by region and by hospital, and was true for both the care received in the hospital and for post-acute care outside.
The variation, they said, is due to the way Medicare pays for this care today, spread among multiple providers, with no single entity accountable for the total patient experience.
Care can be fragmented, they wrote, which leads to adverse outcomes.
Here are the key takeaways from the final rule:
- the CJR model seeks to incentivize Medicare providers and suppliers to work together to improve the quality and reduce the costs of care for patients undergoing lower extremity joint replacement
- the acute hospital where the procedure occurs will be accountable for aggregate Medicare expenditures and the overall quality of related care
- the model will include participant hospitals located in 67 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) throughout the country
- acute hospitals paid under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and located in the selected MSAs will be included in the model, with the exception of hospitals currently participating in Model 1 or Models 2 or 4 of the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative
- depending on the hospital’s quality and aggregate spending performance, the hospital may receive an additional payment from Medicare, or need to repay Medicare in the second year if spending exceeds targets
- hospitals will need to work with physicians and post-acute care providers, such as home health agencies and skilled nursing facilities, to ensure patients get the care they need
This is in contrast to what I reported on in July, when I said that a former CMS official was cited in the Freeman article as saying that 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.”
Whether or not this final rule will do what the authors of the Health Affairs article says it will do remains to be seen, but judging by past CMS programs to affect quality and costs, this may be wishful thinking on the part of the authors.
The insistence that one more new initiative, or more incentives, or one more new model or new rule will change the way health care is being provided in the US, just goes to show that until we adopt a single-payer, “Medicare for All” system with less rules and less incentives, some people will continue to game the system, then we will see a radical change in the American health care system.
And if workers’ compensation follows changes in health care under Medicare, especially how it determines reimbursements for hip and knee surgeries, which are also common to workers’ comp, we can expect to see issues in workers’ comp.
Alternatives must be considered to an ever expensive and poor quality of health care for workers’ comp. That alternative is medical travel.