NAMDRC focuses on keeping its members informed on legislative and regulatory issues impacting their practices
NAMDRC’s mission statement clearly signals its commitment to improve access to quality care for patients with respiratory disease by removing regulatory and legislative barriers to appropriate treatment. Adhering to that commitment presents challenges in the rapidly changing structure of the delivery of health care. For example, 10 years ago, the majority of NAMDRC members were private practitioners/group practices, many with contracts to provide a range of services to institutions. While those agreements varied, the underlying principles were relatively constant – structure your agreements that were mutually beneficial to physician and hospital.
Today, those agreements have been replaced by employment contracts or simply disappeared entirely, replaced by various business models that have invariably shifted the focus of coverage and payment issues away from the group practice into significantly different financial incentives. The challenge for NAMDRC is to keep its members informed about structural changes in coverage and payment rules that could impact their decision making. In November 2018, CMS published three distinctly separate sets of rules slated to take effect in 2019, all of which affect physicians in the pulmonary, critical care, and sleep landscapes. Through the monthly membership publication, the Washington Watchline, members get timely information that impact their practices. Excerpts from a recent Watchline include:
Physician fee schedule: As most physicians know, CMS had proposed dramatic changes to payment for Level 4 and Level % E&M codes, but due to strong reaction from man within the medical community, CMS is withdrawing that specific proposal, at least in the short term. Related provisions include:
• For CY 2019 and 2020, CMS will continue the current coding and payment structure for E/M office/outpatient visits,
• Effective January 1, 2019, for new and established patients for E/M office/outpatient visits, practitioners need not re-enter in the medical record information on the patient’s chief complaint and history that has already been entered by ancillary staff or the beneficiary. The practitioner may simply indicate in the medical record that he or she reviewed and verified this information.
• For 2021, CMS is finalizing a significant reduction in the current payment variation in office/outpatient E/M visit levels by paying a single rate for E/M office/outpatient visit levels 2, 3, and 4 (one for established and another for new patients) beginning in 2021. However, CMS is not finalizing the inclusion of E/M office/outpatient level 5 visits in the single payment rate, to better account for the care and needs of particularly complex patients.
• CMS policy for 2021 will adopt add-on codes that describe the additional resources inherent in visits for primary care and particular kinds of specialized medical care. As discussed further below, these codes will only be reportable with E/M office/outpatient level 2 through 4 visits, and their use generally will not impose new per-visit documentation requirements.
Hospital outpatient rules: There are two particularly relevant issues addressed in this final regulation. The payment rates for pulmonary rehab are:
• Pulmonary Rehab via G0424 – APC 5733, $55.90 with co-pay of $11.18
• Pulmonary Rehab via G0237, 38, 39 – APC 5732, $32.12 with co-pay of $6.43
This regulation is also the vehicle for CMS addressing issues related to Section 603/site of service payment issues. As physicians know, CMS enacted Section 603 of the 23015 Budget Act that puts notable restrictions on payment for certain hospital outpatient services provided off campus (more than 250 yards from main campus of the hospital). NAMDRC is most concerned about the impact on pulmonary rehab – under the rules, off-campus programs that are grandfathered (“excepted” is the CMS term) as long as they were billing for those services at that location November 2015. However, if a hospital chooses to open a new program, or relocate an existing program to a different location, the payment principles that apply are physician fee schedule rates rather than hospital outpatient rates. In the proposed rule posted this past July, CMS had proposed that even a new service provided in an excepted setting would be subject to PFS payment rates rather than hospital outpatient rates. CMS has withdrawn that proposal for the coming year, so new services in excepted settings will be covered.
DME: In its proposed rule this past summer, CMS actually acknowledged flaws in the structure of the competitive bidding system for DME (including oxygen, CPAP, and certain ventilators referred to by CMS as respiratory assist devices). Specifically, related to oxygen, there is also acknowledgement of reductions in liquid oxygen utilization, a story we have been pushing for years. The CMS proposed rule would have tied liquid portable payment rates to portable concentrator and transfill system payment rates, a genuine bump in actual $$. More than a dozen societies joined to respond to the proposed rule, including NAMDRC, CHEST, and ATS.
In the final rule, CMS is moving forward with its proposal, acknowledging that it will need to monitor shifts in the oxygen marketplace and adjust their payment policies accordingly.