HHS recommends using commuting data to establish a labor market area and wage index value for each hospital as a way to reform the Medicare wage index system, according to a new report that HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius sent to Congress (PDF).
The 2010 healthcare reform law required HHS to submit a comprehensive plan to change the system, which the healthcare industry expected last December. The 66-page report highlights the current wage-index methodology, which uses metropolitan statistical areas (MSA) labor market definitions established by the Office of Management and Budget.
“The current system establishes wage indices for hospital labor market areas, not for individual hospitals,” the report said. “Many parties have argued that these definitions often do not reflect the true cost of labor for any given hospital, particularly for hospitals located on the periphery of labor markets or at labor market boundaries,” the report said.