CMS Sets Hospice Payment Update at 3.8 Percent FY2023

  • Finalizes Mitigation Policy for Significant Wage Index Losses
  • Responds to Comments on the Hospice Quality Reporting Program, Special Focus Program, and Requests for Information
  • Look for a NAHC webinar on the FY2023 Hospice Payment Update in the coming days!

On Wednesday, July 27, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued Medicare Program; FY 2023 Hospice Wage Index and Payment Rate Update and Hospice Quality Reporting Requirements, a final rule governing hospice payment and other policies for fiscal year (FY) 2023. The final rule acknowledges higher inflationary trends and their anticipated impact on prices over the coming months and finalizes a 3.8 percent update for hospice payments for FY2023, a significant increase over the proposed update.

In response to the proposed rule earlier this year, NAHC and other hospice stakeholders expressed serious concern that the proposed payment update of 2.7 percent was grossly inadequate when considering the dramatic increases in costs experienced by hospices (and other providers) given the ongoing COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE) and record-breaking growth in inflation over recent months.

The rule also finalizes CMS’ proposal to impose a 5 percent cap on wage index losses from one year to the next to mitigate the negative impact that can result from wage index changes.

“While we believe the 3.8 percent update will be helpful in addressing the financial pressures hospices are experiencing, we have continuing concerns that it will not fully address current cost inflation and will seek support for further increases that would cover the increasing labor and other costs affecting hospice providers,” said NAHC President William A. Dombi, in response to the release of the rule. “We also fully support CMS’ actions to finalize the 5 percent cap on wage index decreases from one year to the next but are disappointed that CMS did not address the significant reductions that affected many hospices in 2022 that are not remedied by a prospective application of the cap at this point.”

 In addition to payment related provisions, CMS responded to comments on the hospice quality reporting program, the special focus program that is part of hospice survey reforms and requests for information on health equity and advancing health information exchange.  Below is a summary of the final rule.

FY2023 Hospice Wage Index

As has historically been the case, CMS will utilize the FY2023 pre-floor, pre-reclassified wage index for hospital cost reporting periods beginning on or after October 1, 2018, and before October 1, 2019 (FY 2019 cost report data), for hospice providers. The wage index value will be applied to the labor portion of the hospice payment rate based on the geographic area in which the beneficiary resides when receiving Routine Home Care (RHC) or Continuous Home Care (CHC) and based on the geographic location of the facility for beneficiaries receiving General Inpatient Care (GIP) or Inpatient Respite Care (IRC).

The hospice wage index applicable for FY2023 is available on the CMS website HERE.

Permanent Cap on Wage Index Decreases

As part of the proposed FY2023 hospice payment rule, CMS proposed a permanent approach to smooth year-to-year changes in providers’ wage indexes by placing a 5 percent cap on all wage index decreases for FY2023 and in future years, regardless of the reason for the decrease. Under this change, a geographic area’s wage index would not be less than 95 percent of its wage index calculated in the prior FY.

CMS further proposed that if a geographic area’s prior FY wage index is calculated based on the 5 percent cap, then the following year’s wage index would not be less than 95 percent of the geographic area’s capped wage index in the prior FY. The five percent cap will be implemented in a budget neutral manner and would be applied after the application of the hospice wage index floor.  If there is a five percent decrease from the previous FY’s wage index value after the application of the hospice wage index floor, then the five percent cap on wage index decreases would also be applied.

While NAHC and others suggested that CMS should examine other options for their potential impact – such as a lower cap value – and that CMS should also consider applying the five percent cap retroactive to FY2022 for those providers who had wage index reductions in FY2022 that exceeded five percent, CMS indicated it will finalize its proposed five percent cap on wage index reductions from year to year beginning October 1, 2022, for hospice providers, and will not implement other recommendations made as part of the rulemaking process.  CMS indicated it intends to examine the effects of this policy on an ongoing basis in the future in order to assess its appropriateness.

FY2023 Hospice Payment Update Jumps to 3.8 Percent

As part of the proposed FY2023 hospice payment rule, CMS projected a net payment update of 2.7 percent for hospices based on an estimated inpatient hospital market basket update of 3.1 percent less a productivity adjustment estimated at 0.4 percentage point.  In developing the final hospice payment rule, CMS utilized more recent data — IHS Global Inc.’s second quarter 2022 forecast with historical data through the first quarter of 2022 – that resulted in a final hospital market basket update of 4.1 percent.

As required by law, CMS must reduce the payment update by a productivity adjustment, which is now calculated to be 0.3 percentage point.  As a result, the final hospice payment update for FY2023 will be 3.8 percent, a significant increase over the proposed 2.7 percent update.

NAHC and other stakeholders provided comments on the proposed 2.7 percent update that conveyed great concerns regarding the financial strains being experienced by hospice providers in the current environment given the ongoing increased costs related to the PHE and the impact of inflation. As part of the final rule CMS acknowledges that the “recent higher inflationary trends have impacted the outlook for price growth over the next several quarters” and that CMS “now ha[s] an updated forecast of the price proxies underlying the market basket that incorporates more recent historical data and reflects a revised outlook”.

CMS notes that the 4.1 percent market basket update for hospitals that is used as the basis for the hospice update is the highest market basket update implemented in an inpatient hospital final rule going back to FY1998.

FY2023 Hospice Payment Rates

Following are the proposed and final hospice payment rates based on the proposed and final payment update percentages referenced above.  The rates must be further adjusted by the wage index values to determine the rates a hospice will receive.

FY2023 HOSPICE RHC PAYMENT RATES**

FY2022 Payment Rates FY2023 Proposed Hospice Update Proposed FY2023 Payment Rates FY 2023 FINAL Hospice Update FINAL FY2023 Payment Rates
Routine Home Care (days 1-60) $203.40 1.027 $209.14 1.038 $211.34
Routine Home Care (days 61+) $160.74 1.027 $165.25 1.038 $167.00

FY2023 HOSPICE CHC, IRC AND GIP PAYMENT RATES**

FY2022 Payment Rates Proposed FY2023 Hospice Update Proposed FY2023 Payment Rates FY2023 FINAL Hospice Update FINAL FY2023 Payment Rates
Continuous Home Care full rate = 24 hours of care $1,462.52 ($60.94 per hour) 1.027 $1,505.61*  1.038 $1,522.04*($63.42 per hour)
Inpatient Respite Care $473.75 1.027 $486.88  1.038 $492.10
General Inpatient Care $1,068.28 1.027 $1,098.88  1.038 $1,110.76

*The service-intensity add-on payment hourly rate will be equal to the CHC daily rate divided by 24

**Payment rates for hospices that fail to meet the Hospice Quality Reporting Program obligations will be subject to a 2 percent reduction in their payment rates for FY2023

Hospice Cap Amount for FY2023

The hospice cap amount for the FY2023 cap year is $32,486.92.

Update on Hospice Survey Reforms

The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 required CMS to implement various hospice survey reforms. In the CY 2022 Home Health Prospective Payment System (HH PPS) final rule, CMS addressed these reforms, and as outlined in that final rule, CMS stated it would take into account comments received and work on a revised proposal, seeking additional collaboration with stakeholders to further develop the methodology for the SFP that was part of the reforms.

NAHC was one of the stakeholders strongly urging CMS to initiate a Technical Expert Panel (TEP) and appreciates that CMS indicated in the FY 2023 proposed rule that it would convene a TEP in CY 2022.

Outside of its response to comments in this final rule, CMS recently announced that nominations are open until August 12, 2022, for this TEP.

More information about the TEP and the nomination process can be found here.  CMS plans to use the TEP findings to further develop a proposal on the methodology for establishing the hospice SFP, and plans to include a proposal implementing a SFP in the FY 2024 Hospice rulemaking proposed rule.

Hospice Outcomes & Patient Evaluation Tool – HOPE

Comments submitted to the proposed rule included recommendations to incorporate social determinants of health (SDOH) into the HOPE and consider the burden of the HOPE on hospices.  CMS will take the comments into consideration and reiterated in the final rule that it will continue to share information about the HOPE via sub-regulatory means, such as Open Door Forums (ODFs), Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) Forums, the CMS HQRP webpage, and other appropriate communications and will propose HOPE in future rulemaking.

The HOPE is currently undergoing beta testing to establish reliability, validity, and feasibility of the assessment instrument.  Outside of this final rule, CMS and its contractor, Abt Associates, are recruiting more hospices to participate in the beta testing.  Please see the recent NAHC Report article on this topic for additional information on the recruitment, and please consider participating if your organization is able.  Beta testing is national and will continue through 2022. CMS anticipates proposing HOPE in future rulemaking after testing and analyses are complete.

Future Quality Measure (QM) Development

CMS provided contemplated updates for hospice quality measure concepts based on future use of HOPE and administrative data in this proposed rule.  In its comments, NAHC reiterated its recommendations submitted previously urging CMS to develop codes or modifiers for telehealth visits in hospice and that it supports the recommendation by MedPAC that technology-based visits be reported on claims. Such visits should be incorporated into the HQRP.  CMS received additional support for the same from other commenters and indicates in this final rule that it will take these comments into consideration in future quality measure development.  CMS will also consider additional comments submitted about the need to include the other hospice services/disciplines such as spiritual care/chaplains in the HQRP.  CMS reiterated its commitment to the Meaningful Measures Initiative and Measures Management System Blueprint.  NAHC recommends that hospices not already familiar with the Initiative and Blueprint take the time to become acquainted with them as they are guiding documents for CMS’ quality reporting programs.

CAHPS Hospice Survey Star Rating

As finalized in the FY 2022 Hospice Wage Index and Payment Rule Update rule, star ratings will be publicly reported on Care Compare on Medicare.gov beginning with the August 2022 refresh. It seems there were a good number of comments submitted on various aspects of the CAHPS hospice survey star rating. Commenters are concerned about the impact of the overall response rates for the CAHPS hospice survey on the star rating as well as the impact of a seemingly low number of hospices having a star rating displayed on Care Compare. CMS responded that it continues to analyze data from the recent testing of a web-based mode for the CAHPS hospice survey and a shortened version of the survey for future changes to the survey.  Such changes would be part of future rulemaking.

CMS also shared that for the August 2022 reporting period, most hospices with publicly reported CAHPS Hospice Survey measure scores (68 percent) met the threshold of 75 completed surveys and were assigned a Star Rating. The vast majority of 2020 Medicare decedents (approximately nine out of ten) received care from hospices that received a Star Rating in August 2022. CMS also responded that it presents footnotes and other documentation on the Care Compare website to clearly indicate why hospices with smaller numbers of completed surveys do not have Star Ratings.

Request For Information Related to The HQRP Health Equity Initiative and Structural Composite Measure

In both the FY 2022 and FY 2023 Hospice Wage Index and Rate Update proposed rules, CMS sought and received comments regarding health equity.  The comments in both years were generally supportive of gathering standardized patient assessment data elements and additional SDOH data to improve health equity.  Despite this general support NAHC and others submitted comments about the great variation in organizational readiness to develop and implement health equity initiatives and challenges in implementing a health equity framework and respective quality improvement activities.  These challenges include, but are not limited to, financial limitations, data collection burden, and workforce shortages.  Barriers to standardized collection of data related to health equity were also shared.

In response to CMS’ request for feedback on a structural composite measure, NAHC and others indicated general support but recommended a number of steps for CMS to take prior to implementation and publishing of such a measure. NAHC strongly urged CMS to convene a TEP to guide the development of the health equity structural composite measure. Commenters also requested that providers have an opportunity to review, analyze, and learn from results of the structural measure prior to CMS implementation.  NAHC is pleased that CMS recently announced that it will convene the recommended TEP. See the NAHC Report coverage of the announcement here

Advancing Health Information Exchange

CMS also sought feedback on initiatives to advance health information exchange.  Comments submitted were generally aligned with NAHC’s comments which:

  • urged CMS to use its existing authority to support hospices’ ability to purchase, implement, and maintain HIT that facilitates interoperable data exchange across all care settings
  • recommended CMS begin to set more specific expectations for hospices (and other PAC providers), as well as HIT and EHR vendor organizations, regarding SDOH data collection and sharing, and
  • work with ONC to develop more detailed guidance and education that explains the specific legal and operational protocols that can facilitate health information exchange between hospices and community based SDOH organizations.

CMS responded that it appreciates the comments provided on interoperability initiatives and will take these comments into consideration as it coordinates with Federal partners, including ONC, on these initiatives, and to inform future rulemaking.

CMS Sets Hospice Payment Update at 3.8 Percent FY2023

Finalizes Mitigation Policy for Significant Wage Index Losses Responds to Comments on the Hospice Quality Reporting Program, Special Focus Program, and Requests for Information Look for a NAHC webinar on the FY2023 Hospice Payment Update in the coming days! On Wednesday, July 27, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued Medicare Program; FY…

Hospice Care Index Technical Report Released

Abt Associates submitted the Hospice Care Index Technical Report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The report provides context and descriptive analyses for the Hospice Care Index (HCI). The HCI is a new quality measure for the Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) that will be publicly reported on Care Compare in August 2022. The measure was added to the HQRP in 2022 and is a single measure comprising ten indicators calculated from Medicare claims.

The ten claims-based indicators comprising the HCI are shown below.

Hospices have had concerns about the indicators seemingly focusing more on program integrity issues than quality of care.  CMS repeats in this report what it has said in the past – that the HCI provides a broad overview of hospice care quality. CMS further explains that each indicator in the index represents a particular care practice of concern, as identified by CMS’ information gathering activities and that the HCI was developed to fill several identified information gaps:

  • Provision of Higher Levels of Hospice Services:

CMS requires hospices be able to provide both continuous home care (CHC) and general inpatient care (GIP) to manage more intense symptom crises. However, around a quarter of all programs do not provide GIP services each year, and it is unclear if patients in crisis received appropriate care (a similar concern exists regarding the CHC level of care.)

  • Visits by Professional Hospice Staff:

Medicare Conditions of Participation (CoPs) require the hospice interdisciplinary team to ensure on-going patient and caregiver assessment, plan of care implementation, and 24/7 availability of hospice services. Additionally, the end of life is typically the period in the terminal illness trajectory with the highest symptom burden, necessitating close care and attention from hospice staff.

  • Patterns of Hospice Live Discharges and Transitions:

Providers are expected to have some live discharges, but rates that are substantially higher than other hospices could signal a potential problem such as poor care quality, poor program integrity, failing to meet patients’ or families’ needs, or admitting patients who do not meet  eligibility criteria. Atypical transition patterns suggest problems in hospices’ care processes, advance care planning to prevent hospitalizations, or discharge processes. Revocations may also be related to business practices or quality of care.

  • Medicare Spending:

CMS currently reports per-beneficiary spending estimates for other care settings. Half of hospice expenditures are for patients that have had at least 180 or more days on hospice, raising concerns that some programs do not appropriately discharge ineligible patients, enroll patients with longer predicted lengths of stay in hospice, or inappropriately bill for highlevel, higher-rate services such as GIP.

Per CMS, the indicators represent a hospice’s ability to address patients’ needs, best practices hospices should observe, and/or care outcomes that matter to consumers. Each HCI indicator has its own numerator, denominator, and resulting indicator score. A hospice earns a point each time it meets the threshold for an indicator. Hospices’ HCI scores are calculated as the total number of earned points across the ten indicators and can range from a perfect 10 to a 0.  Index Earned Point Criteria were set based on CMS’ statistical analysis of national hospice performance to ensure meaningful distinction between hospices. It is only the Index score that will be publicly reported in August, but hospices can see their performance compared to norms in the Provider Preview Reports available in their CASPER folders.

For this recently released technical report, 100 percent of Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) claims data from eight quarters across calendar years 2019 through 2021 were used by CMS to calculate scores for the ten indicators and the overall index to assess the HCI against National Quality Forum (NQF) performance standards for validity and variability. Nationally, the average HCI score is 8.8, with 37.9 percent of hospices receiving a score of 10. No hospice scored a two or below. The report states that the  range of scores indicates sufficient potential to differentiate hospice performance which is one of CMS’ goals for quality measures.

In general, HCI scores were higher on average among larger hospices, older hospices, non-profit hospices, and facility-based hospices. Scores were also higher on average among hospices in northern states. There was not a strong difference in average HCI scores between hospices in urban and rural areas. CMS found a correlation between a higher HCI score and a higher percentage of caregivers reporting that they would recommend the hospice (through the CAHPS® Hospice Survey).  The report provides details of the correlation between indicators, the likelihood of HCI indicators for which hospices failed to achieve points and the HCI indicators’ relationships to CAHPS® Hospice outcome scores.  The report also provides details about the design and structure of the HCI including the rationale for the indicators and a scoring explanation.

Hospice Care Index Technical Report Released

Abt Associates submitted the Hospice Care Index Technical Report to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The report provides context and descriptive analyses for the Hospice Care Index (HCI). The HCI is a new quality measure for the Hospice Quality Reporting Program (HQRP) that will be publicly reported on Care Compare in August 2022.…

Summary of the CMS Open Door Forum on June 29

During the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) Home Health, Hospice, and DME Open Door Forum on June 29, 2022, CMS reminded hospices that the August refresh of Care Compare will include the two new claims-based measures – Hospice Visits in Last Days of Life and Hospice Care Index.  These measures were slated to be publicly reported with the May refresh of Care Compare but this was pushed back to August due to errors in the Provider Preview Reports for these measures issued in March.  Therefore, hospices are to disregard the preview reports for March.  Corrected preview reports are available now.

The reconsideration period for the FY2023 annual payment update (APU) hospice quality reporting program (HQRP) requirements is coming up.  Hospice providers will receive notification from their Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) if they are subject to the APU penalty, and they will also receive notification in their CASPER folder.

Several new resources are scheduled to be posted to the HQRP website soon.  These include the latest quarterly communication as well as new video resources that provide an overview of HQRP and an explanation of the HCI measure.  CMS is also planning to release a technical report on the HCI.  Stay tuned to NAHC Report for more information as these items become available.

There was some concern expressed by hospice participants in the ODF that the Care Compare website currently reflects that data for the HCI and HVLDL is suppressed upon request from the agency. This is not accurate as CMS suppressed the data due to an error in the preview reports, as stated above. CMS indicated that there is an additional update to the footnotes that will be pushed out soon and should provide some additional clarity on this situation for the public.

Important Hospice Quality Reporting Reminders

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently posted the Hospice Outreach Email for June and it contains reminders and updates on the various Medicare hospice quality reporting program (HQRP) activities.  There are two reminders hospices should take note of.

  1. Upcoming Reconsideration Period for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 HQRP

Data submitted in 2021 impacts the FY 2023 annual payment update (APU). If your hospice did not meet the reporting requirements in CY 2021 and will be subject to the FY 2023 APU penalty of 2%, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will notify you in two ways:

  • A notification from your Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) and
  • A notification in your facility’s Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports (CASPER) folder.

The notifications will be distributed on July 12, 2022 and will include instructions for submitting a reconsideration. There is a 30-day timeframe for filing the reconsideration request. For more information on your right to request a reconsideration and the CMS reconsideration process, please visit the Hospice Reconsideration Requests webpage.

  1. FY 2024 Hospice Quality Reporting Reminder

Hospice quality reporting data submitted in CY 2022 data, starting on January 1, 2022 impacts FY 2024 payments. Beginning with FY 2024, the APU penalty doubles, going from 2% to 4%, for hospices not meeting the HQRP requirements. To ensure hospices achieve the full APU, be certain to meet the quality reporting requirements for data submission in CY 2022:

Annual Payment Update HIS CAHPS
FY2024 Submit at least 90 percent of all HIS records within 30 days of the event date (patient’s admission or discharge) for patient admissions/discharges occurring 1/1/22 – 12/31/22. Ongoing monthly participation in the Hospice CAHPS survey 1/1/2022 – 12/31/2022

Most hospices that receive the APU penalty do so because of noncompliance with the Hospice Item Set (HIS) submission requirements. This frequently occurs during changes in EHR systems and changes in staffing so hospices should be sure to confirm submission of the HIS timely by downloading the Final Validation Reports. This report identifies HIS submissions received by CMS, and this receipt must occur in order for the hospice to receive “credit” for having submitted the HIS.

Important Hospice Quality Reporting Reminders

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently posted the Hospice Outreach Email for June and it contains reminders and updates on the various Medicare hospice quality reporting program (HQRP) activities.  There are two reminders hospices should take note of. Upcoming Reconsideration Period for the Fiscal Year (FY) 2023 HQRP Data submitted in 2021 impacts the FY…

Summary of the CMS Open Door Forum on June 29

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) held a Home Health, Hospice, and DME Open Door Forum on June 29, 2022. The summary of the Forum applicable to home health and hospice providers is below. HOME HEALTH CMS provided a high-level summary of the CY 2023 Home Health PPS Rule.  (See the NAHC Report…

NEW Hospice Provider Preview Reports

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the Hospice Visits in the Last Days of Life (HVLDL) and the Hospice Care Index (HCI) claims-based measures were not publicly displayed as planned in the May 2022 refresh. NAHC reached out to CMS about this and learned that there were technical errors in the data calculation, which were discovered well after the Preview Reports for these measures were released to hospices in March.

CMS is mandated to give providers a full 30 days to review the Preview Reports.  Because of this, there was not time to re-release Preview Reports prior to the planned May 2022 refresh.  Hospices should disregard the Preview Reports released in March for the HVLDL and HCI.

CMS is targeting the August 2022 refresh for the inaugural display of these quality measures and announced that new Provider Preview Reports for the HVLDL and HCI are now available in hospice’s CASPER (Certification and Survey Provider Enhanced Reports) folder. 

Hospices utilized data from the incorrect scores in the Preview Reports to plan for performance improvement and they may have to adjust their priorities and plans now that the new Preview Reports are available.

The recently available provider Preview Reports also contain the Preview Reports for other publicly reported measures that will be updated in the August 2022 Care Compare refresh.  These include the CAHPS Hospice Star Rating and the HIS Comprehensive Assessment measure.

Once released in CASPER, providers will have 30 days during which to review their quality measure results.  Although the actual “preview period” is 30 days, the reports will continue to be available for another 30 days, or a total of 60 days. The preview period for the latest Provider Preview Report lasts from May 25, 2022 to June 27, 2022.

CMS encourages providers to download and save their Hospice Provider Preview Reports for future reference, as they will no longer be available in CASPER after this 60-day period.

NEW Hospice Provider Preview Reports

Last month, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that the Hospice Visits in the Last Days of Life (HVLDL) and the Hospice Care Index (HCI) claims-based measures were not publicly displayed as planned in the May 2022 refresh. NAHC reached out to CMS about this and learned that there were technical errors…