CMS proposes inpatient payment model for CAR T therapies


Physicians may finally have some clarity on payment for inpatient administration of two chimeric antigen receptor–T-cell therapies if a proposed rule from the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services becomes final.

The agency is seeking to assign ICD-10-PCS codes XW033C3 and XW043C3 to the use of axicabtagene ciloleucel (Yescarta) and tisagenlecleucel (Kymriah) in the inpatient setting for fiscal year 2019. The agency is also considering the creation of a new Medicare Severity–Diagnosis Related Group (MS-DRG) code for procedures involving the use of chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy drugs. The proposal was published in May in the Federal Register.

The proposal demonstrates that CMS is listening to physicians’ concerns about CAR T payments and working to provide a more reasonable framework, said Stephanie Farnia, director of health policy and strategic relations for the American Society for Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

“The primary point of significance is that CAR-T care episodes should be assigned to a specific MS-DRG in FY2019, which will give physicians a clearer sense of inpatient reimbursement in advance,” she said in an interview.

Uncertainty about inpatient payment for administration of the two approved CAR-T therapies have been a lingering concern of specialists using, or interested in using, the therapies. In April 2018, CMS announced payment rates for outpatient administration of the two drugs, settling on $395,380 for axicabtagene ciloleucel and $500,839 for tisagenlecleucel. The two medications have list prices of $373,000 and $475,000, respectively.

However, physicians noted that even if the drugs are first administered in the outpatient setting, inpatient care is likely to occur with CAR T-cell therapies because some patients will need to be admitted in order to be monitored for serious side effects. In such cases, all payments will become part of the inpatient stay per CMS’ 3-day payment window rule.

In outlining the most recent payment proposal, CMS stated that its clinical advisers believe that patients receiving treatment with CAR T-cell therapy would have similar clinical characteristics and comorbidities as patients treated with autologous bone marrow transplant therapy, who are currently assigned to MS-DRG 016 “Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant with CC/MCC”. Therefore, CMS officials said they are suggesting ICD-10-PCS procedure codes XW033C3 and XW043C3 to pre-MDC MS-DRG 016. Additionally, the agency is proposing to revise the title of MS-DRG 016 from “Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant with CC/MCC” to “Autologous Bone Marrow Transplant with CC/MCC or T-cell Immunotherapy.”


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