Medicare reimbursement rates for hospital outpatient services would rise 3.3% as of Jan. 1, 2005, under a CMS proposal. The proposed rate increase along with other policy changes would increase overall payments to hospitals under the outpatient prospective payment system by 6.6% in 2005, bringing total outpatient PPS payments to $24.2 billion that year. The CMS also proposed paying hospitals for new drugs and biologicals as soon as they are approved by the Food and Drug Administration and extending a policy meant to help rural hospitals. The "hold-harmless" policy, set to expire at year-end, would be continued through 2005. Under it, sole community hospitals in rural communities are guaranteed at least as much reimbursement under the outpatient PPS as they would have received under the previous cost-based payment methodology. The proposed regulations will be published in the Aug. 16 Federal Register, comments will be accepted until Oct. 8, and final regulations are scheduled for release by Nov. 1. At deadline, the proposal was not available on the CMS Web site, www.cms.hhs.gov.-- by Tony Fong
CMS proposes changes to outpatient PPS
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