CMS backs off some home healthcare cuts

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has made some small cuts to reimbursements for home health and end-stage renal disease services, although it spared hospitals from some larger cuts in the former category, AHA News Now reported.

In a final rule issued last week, CMS announced that it would reduce payments to home healthcare providers by 1.05 percent for the 2014 calendar year, a smaller cut than the 1.5 percent originally proposed. The payment includes a 2.3 percent market basket increase, minus 2.73 percent for rebasing adjustments, and another 0.62 percent reduction tied to refinements in the home healthcare prospective payment system. The cuts will total $200 million for the coming year, Senior Housing News reported.

However, hospital-based home healthcare agencies received a smaller cut of just 0.58 percent.

CMS had announced earlier this year a plan to reduce reimbursements for home healthcare by 3.5 percent annually between 2014 and 2017 to coincide with the widespread rollout of the Affordable Care Act, but retreated after it appeared to inflict financial damage to home healthcare firms.

That the agency backed off the steeper cuts it originally proposed did not mollify home healthcare providers. "The clear conclusion is that saving money is more important to CMS than serving those who are so sick they cannot leave home without assistance," Val Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care & Hospice, told Senior Housing News. "It is obvious that they turned a deaf ear to our pleas on behalf of aged, infirm, disabled, and dying Americans."

Meanwhile, CMS also published a final rule regarding providers of dialysis and other treatments for end-stage renal disease. It will maintain 2013 payment rates into 2014, backing off its original proposal of a 9.3 percent reimbursement cut. Moreover, hospital-based dialysis centers will get a slight payment bump, an increase of 0.8 percent.

To learn more:
- read the AHA News Now article
- here's the Senior Housing News article
- check out the CMS final rule (.pdf)

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