Senators lobby CMS over site-neutral payments

Fifty-one United States Senators have asked the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to closely consider its payment rules for outpatient centers operated by hospitals off their campuses, AHA News Now reported.

Both the American Hospital Association and the Federation of American Hospitals have heavily lobbied Congress in regards to site-neutral payments. They were recently introduced by the Obama administration as a cost-cutting measure, although most outpatient centers already owned by hospitals have received a grandfathered exemption. As much as $30 billion over the next decade could be saved with the adoption of site-neutral payments, which would put pay hospital-owned outpatient centers at outpatient rates.

The senators asked in a letter to acting CMS Administrator Andrew Slavitt that the agency closely consider the criteria for "site-neutral payments"--levels of reimbursement lower than what hospitals currently receive for inpatient care and are able to obtain at some of its current outpatient sites.

Of particular concern are payments at what the senators referred to as "dedicated emergency rooms" (DED). Those are off-campus outpatient sites where at least one-third of the services provided are emergency in nature. "We believe that when a facility meets the criteria for a DED, none of the services furnished in that facility should be subject to the site-neutral payment reductions," the letter said.

The senators also asked that if an outpatient center is relocated by a hospital, or if there is an ownership change, the higher levels of reimbursement remain in place. 

To learn more:
- read the AHA News Now article 
- check out the letter via the AHA (.pdf)