Home-health providers would receive a 2.5% increase in their Medicare payments in 2005 under a proposed rule the CMS issued Friday. The CMS also proposed modifications to how payment updates are calculated, including better tracking of price changes affecting home-health agencies and a more accurate reflection of the mix of goods and services agencies buy to provide care. Bill Dombi, a spokesman for the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, said the group is pleased by a provision that would expand the number of cases that qualify for outlier payments, which compensate providers for high-cost patients. Home-health agencies moved to a prospective payment system in 2001.
In 2004, home-health payments are expected to account for $10.7 billion in Medicare spending, less than 4% of the total. From 2002 to 2003, Medicare spending on home health fell 2% but is expected to grow 7.2% from 2004 to 2013, according to the CMS. If the proposed rule is finalized as it stands, the 2.5% rate increase would take effect in January 2005 and add $270 million in payments to home-health agencies, according to the CMS. The proposed home-health regulation is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on June 2 with 60 days of public comment to follow. A final rule will be issued later this year. -- by Jeff Tieman