The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission voted to recommend payment freezes for skilled-nursing facilities, inpatient-rehabilitation facilities and home healthcare in 2009. Commissioners also recommended establishing a quality-incentive payment policy for skilled-nursing facilities in fiscal 2009.
The implication is these facilities operate at higher margins than other providers, and MedPAC researchers indicated that none of the freezes should affect beneficiaries or providers. However, not all providers agreed. MedPACs recommendation is flawed and far off the mark in terms of providing Congress with the objective picture it needs to make budgetary decisions that directly affect nursing homes, said Alan Rosenbloom, president of the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, in a written statement. Adequate Medicare payments are essential to maintaining the financial stability essential to ensure the continued provision of the highest quality care, Rosenbloom said.
MedPAC also voted to increase Medicare payments to long-term acute-care hospitals by 1.6%, a figure thats based on the current 3.1% marketbasket update minus MedPACs expectations for productivity growth in the general economy.
Some of these recommendations come with significant cost savings: MedPAC researchers estimated that eliminating the payment update for home healthcare would decrease Medicare spending between $250 million and $750 million in 2009 and up to $5 billion over five years. The LTAC proposal would decrease spending by nearly $1 billion over five years. -- by Jennifer Lubell
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