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SNFs, Start Playing Offense! How to Put CY24 Managed Care Changes into Action

January 1st kicked off a new year; and for skilled nursing facilities and Medicare Advantage beneficiaries, this new year offers big opportunities to get the access to care needed. Powerful changes included in the Medicare Advantage (MA) Contract Year (CY) 2024 Final Rule went into effect on 1/1/2024.

Biggest Changes Beginning 1/1/24

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Is Your Revenue At Risk With The New MDS?

To be frank, the implementation of the Minimum Data Set (MDS) 3.0 version 1.18.11 assessment did not go as smoothly as most had hoped. Even the most prepared providers could not have anticipated stumbling through continuous electronic medical record (EMR) glitches, overlapping with twenty-one (21) errors in the MDS RAI Manual version 1.18.11 identified by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), and issues submitting MDS assessments into Internet Quality Improvement & Evaluation System (iQIES).

How Did Errors Impact Providers?
EMR errors were not specific to any one vendor, CMS said all EMR vendors experienced problems. To illustrate the magnitude and complexity of errors providers encountered; one-month post-implementation of the MDS 3.0 version 1.18.11, one of the most prominent EMR software’s in the US continues to investigate unresolved errors, releasing a multi-page document detailing the status of resolutions. So, what’s going on? Across multiple software vendors, providers reported significant complications:

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Why Is My Revenue Dropping?

Skilled nursing facility (SNF) budgets have been stretched thin for years, with most providers cutting any unnecessary items from their expenses. However, some administrators are still seeing their revenue decreasing.

Many point to the two-year PDPM parity adjustment recalibration, continued effects of COVID-19, and inflation as the cause of decreasing SNF revenue. However, have you considered how managed care receivables, SNF Quality Reporting Program (QRP) outcomes, and ranking in the SNF Value Based Purchasing (VBP) program may be impacting your bottom line? These often-overlooked factors may reveal opportunities to increase income.

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What does the new MDS mean for Administrators on 10/1/23?

The industry is buzzing… after pandemic-related delays, CMS finally released the draft Minimum Data Set (MDS) 3.0 version 1.18.11 for implementation on October 1, 2023, with the final version expected to be published before the new year. It’s been widely regarded as the largest change to the MDS in over a decade. With less than one year to prepare, a slew of changes that impact everything from interdisciplinary communication to assessments, and risk to both Medicare and Medicaid revenue, where should you start?

Let’s look at cause and effect. What are the most significant changes in the MDS 3.0 version 1.18.11 and what impact to skilled nursing facility (SNF) operations should administrators expect?

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Is The Grass Really Greener On The Other Side – Part II

In Part I of the question of whether the grass is really greener on the other side, we asked whether the grass is really greener with in house therapy. In Part II we want to look at whether the grass is greener with a contract therapy company.

Our company recently completed an RFP project for contract therapy services for a client.

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Is The Grass Really Greener On The Other Side – Part I

The phrase “is the grass really greener on the other side” is generally used to imply that things are not necessarily better on the other side. However, there are times when the “other side” may be better. The challenge is determining when the other side might be better, or are things on your side best for you.

In the world of skilled nursing this concept has been on the minds of many operators when looking at moving from a contract therapy relationship to an in house model. The shift to the Patient Driven Payment Model (PDPM) meant that therapy minutes would no longer be a primary driver of Medicare A reimbursement. The belief was this would lead to fewer minutes being delivered which in turn meant that it might be more cost effective to have an in house therapy program.

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Case Mix Strategies to Optimize Your Medicaid Revenue

Case Mix reimbursement operates on a weighted scale, the more resources needed to provide resident care, results in a higher CMI score and a higher reimbursement level. The Minimum Data Set (MDS) Assessment is used by states to collect objective data regarding a resident within specific timeframes, across multiple disciplines. When an MDS assessment is completed, a clinical score that reflects resident acuity is assigned. This clinical score, known as a Resource Utilization Group (RUG) level, correlates with direct care costs in a Case Mix reimbursement system.

Implementing systems that strengthen documentation of care provided and data capture in the MDS assessment, can have a significant impact on a provider’s Medicaid revenue.

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Weighing Your Options: Solutions to Combat the Staffing Crisis

Nurse staffing shortages have escalated nationwide to such an extreme level they are now labeled a staffing crisis. Skilled nursing facilities have implemented wait lists, declined new admissions, and even closed units as a result of the staffing crisis.

While the nation is currently gripped by the pandemic, long-term care providers will absorb the ripple effects of the staffing crisis for years to come. Industry experts anticipate providers will see declined reimbursement, as well as increased federal auditing due to use of PHE waivers. In addition, providers should expect to see Five Star rating reductions for survey non-compliance related to infection control surveys, with zero tolerance resulting in immediate jeopardy tags. Five Star ratings for staffing may see effects from burnout, vaccine mandates and other constraints placed on healthcare workers.

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Top 15 Things to Know About Vaccinating Staff

COVID-19 Vaccination Federal Mandate for Staff

COVID-19 has certainly taken taking its toll on the nursing home industry where staffing was a challenge even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. The recent directive by the federal government that is mandating that all employees of skilled nursing facilities to be COVID-19 vaccinated on or about October 18th, 2021, (the estimated last day for final COVID-19 Vaccine shot on October 4, 2021) further compounds the staffing crisis and could result in significant negative ramifications to the clinical, financial, and operational performance of nursing facilities.

This new federal mandate comes shortly after the May 11th, 2021 regulation requiring nursing homes to report weekly the status of completed COVID-19 vaccinations for both residents and staff to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN).

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Length of Stay (LOS) - What is the Best Calculation?

HHI is fielding many questions regarding the calculations for Length of Stay (LOS). Skilled nursing facilities across the country track the Clinically Anticipated Stay (CAS), otherwise known as Length of Stay (LOS), to determine the amount of days a patient resides in the nursing home. Data collection is the foundation for monitoring progress, but, in itself is a daunting task. CMS uses LOS in the SNF QRP program, for patients discharged to the hospital and for patients who return to the Emergency Room or hospital within 30 days of discharge from the SNF. The accuracy and consistency of these figures is critical for care, operations, outcomes and analysis.

What calculations are being used?

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4 Ways Your Therapy Operation Could Help You Mitigate Medicare Cuts in 2021

In early December, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) finalized the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule for 2021, reflecting significant cuts to a variety of providers. Physical therapy (PT), occupational therapy (OT), and speech-language pathology (SLP) were initially going to be impacted by a reimbursement reduction of approximately 9%. In late December, in response to intense advocacy by organizations representing the 37 professions affected by the cuts, Congress approved a new omnibus and COVID-19 relief package that reduced the planned cuts to approximately 3% and put the 2% sequestration reduction on hold. The omnibus bill sets the payment rate for CY2021, but the sequestration hold expires on March 31, 2021. At that point, the 2% sequestration reduction will return for all Medicare claims. While this is certainly an improvement over the proposed 9% cut, the new cuts will still prove to be unsustainable for many providers.

So how can you mitigate these reductions in your Part B therapy billings? A key aspect of mitigating these losses is the overall management of your therapy operation. There are some obvious and some not-so-obvious areas where mitigation may be possible. In this article, we will discuss four of them: Multiple Procedure Payment Reduction (MPPR) Policy, the Medicare 8-Minute Rule, Productivity, and Staff Education.

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Your Data is Key: Why Analyzing Facility QRP Practices is Essential

Do you know how your community views you? Beginning in October 2020, certain Quality Reporting Programs (QRP) measures are being publicly reported on Medicare’s Nursing Home Compare site. How do you compare to your competitors in these QRP measures? Continual review, analysis and adjustment of your practices is the key to depicting the stellar services you provide.

Newly publicized QRP measures include:

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CMS Releases 2021 Medicare Part A & Part B Rates Impacting SNFs

Important information for Skilled Nursing Facility Admissions, Billers and Finance Departments! New Medicare Part A and Part B Deductibles and Premiums have been released for the 2021 calendar year. Effective January 1, 2021; the following rates will apply:

Medicare Part A SNF Coinsurance   $185.50/day (Beneficiary to pay $185.50/day after day 20 until end of Medicare Part A stay)
Medicare Part B Monthly Premium 

 $148.50* ($3.90 increase from 2020 rate)

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PDPM Isolation, Quarantine, Skilling, COVID-19, and ICD-10

PDPM Isolation, Quarantine, Skilling, COVID-19, and ICD-10
Top 6 Things to Know

HHI is receiving ongoing inquiries on the MDS Coding qualifiers for Isolation and Quarantine. Although it may seem simple, there is a difference between Isolation and Quarantine.

  • Isolation is for patients with symptoms and or positive tests.
  • Quarantine is for patients exposed but exhibits no symptoms.

According to the CDC, isolation is for people who are ill, while quarantine applies to people who have been in the presence of a disease but have not necessarily become sick themselves. Per the CDC,

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5 Ways to Improve Your PDPM Reimbursement

It starts at the front door.

Smart choices upon admission will yield the best results. A strong admissions department will weigh various factors upon admitting a resident, working with the clinical team to select a strong primary diagnosis. This requires a comprehensive review of documentation and transfer paperwork provided upon arrival. By recognizing revenue triggers and selecting the best PDPM category composition; projected reimbursement is established at the highest appropriate level.

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Recalibrating PDPM after COVID-19

Confusion, new directives every hour, residents desperate for help, family, and hope. Your clinical awareness is sharp, on high alert, mindful of any shift in condition. Your all-consuming focus is the health of the patients in your care.

In March 2020, this was the scene in the Long-Term Care landscape. In the blink of an eye, staff intent on treating patients during the pandemic lost the time once dedicated to PDPM initiatives. Fast forward to October 2020, Long-Term Care heroes have helped define “essential”. Our SNF saviors have come out the other side, with techniques and processes to endure the COVID-19 pandemic; and ready to set their sights on the PDPM game once again.

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Round 3

Have you ever felt like your life was an eternal boxing match? Every day you wake up, put your gloves on, and head out just to fight another day. I have felt this feeling many times throughout my life, but nothing has compared to this year of uncertainty and change. As I sit at my desk writing this article, the date is October 1st. Exactly one year ago today the company put on its' boxing gloves and went out to face PDPM. Our company spent over a year planning and preparing for that day and just as we were getting our arms around this new payment system, in came Round 2, COVID-19.

We barely had time to sit in our corner and catch our breath before putting the gloves on to go fight again. With this opponent, we did not have much time for preparation. There was a lot of trial and error and learn as you go. All of our teams bravely stepped up to this new opponent, and I was personally able to see the unwavering commitment from all of you. Six months into this pandemic, we are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel. But just as we have had a moment to sit in our corner and catch our breath, here comes Round 3!

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Illinois in Conformity with Federal and State Medicaid Regulations on Unpaid Pre-Eligibility Medical Expenses

Illinois is the latest battleground state where Stotler Hayes Group (SHG) has brought the fight for post-Medicaid eligibility income deductions for recipients of long-term care Medicaid benefits. In an ideal world, residents would have all of their financial affairs in order prior to being admitted to a skilled nursing facility so that they secure Medicaid benefits as soon as they exhaust their insurance coverage or private resources. Anyone in the long-term care industry knows, however, that many residents are unable to secure the Medicaid start-date that they need, which leaves the resident – and their provider – with unpaid bills for services rendered prior to their Medicaid eligibility.

Medicaid is a cooperative Federal and State program intended to assist needy and indigent individuals with the costs of care. In order to receive federal funding, State plans for Medicaid must comply with Federal requirements. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (“CMS”) has long interpreted unpaid expenses incurred prior to Medicaid approval as “not covered” under the State plan for Medicaid. As a result, Federal law requires State Medicaid programs to deduct unpaid medical expenses incurred prior to Medicaid eligibility when determining the amount of income that a resident is required to contribute toward the cost of his or her care; this amount is known as a resident’s “Cost Share” or “Patient Pay Liability.” In other words, Federal law provides Medicaid recipients the ability to apply their Cost Share/Patient Pay Liability towards uncovered pre-eligibility medical expenses. States are permitted to impose reasonable restrictions and many states have done so – allowing deductions, for example, only for uncovered medical expenses incurred three months (or, in some states, six months) prior to the month of the Medicaid application. Some states have elected to impose no time restrictions and allow for deductions in Cost Share/Patient Pay Liability for uncovered medical expenses regardless of when the expenses were incurred prior to the month of the Medicaid application.

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Compassionate Care Series

Care is at the heart of your mission and our nurses know too well the struggles of preserving a culture committed to caregivers. It isn't just about staffing—it’s about supporting. From our nurses to yours a series dedicated to compassionate care.

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Key Implementation Concepts for Drug Regimen Review

Three new items have been added to Section N of the MDS, that will have a major impact on the policies and processes you have used in the past regarding medication reconciliation and administration.

  • N2001: Drug Regimen Review (Assessed on Admission)
  • N2003: Medication Follow-up (Assessed on Admission)
  • N2005: Medication Intervention (Assessed on Discharge)

Although this new item may seem to be commonplace in your facility already, there are scenarios which frequently arise, that may interfere and render your processes inadequate. These fundamental concepts will be required for Medicare Part A covered residents but are considered a best practice for any payer source.

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