By the end of 2023, the forgot one thing.which includes a variety of complicated procedures, including brain and heart operations — is scheduled to be gone. CMS officials said the change was designed to give patients and doctors more options and help lower costs by promoting competition among . But they
While removing the surgeries from the inpatient-only list, thethem to be performed anywhere else. So at hospitals. But because the procedures have been reclassified, patients in the hospital don’t have to be considered admitted patients. Instead, they can receive services on an outpatient basis.
CMS pays hospitals less for care provided to outpatient beneficiaries, so the new policy means the agency can pay less thanfor the same surgery at the same hospital. Medicare outpatients will usually pick up a more significant part of the tab.
“The impetus for this is for Medicare to save money,” said James Huddleston, a professor of orthopedic surgery at the Stanford University Medical Center and the chair of the American Association of Hip and Knee Surgeons’ Health Policy Council. “The oldest trick in the book is to say the patients don’t need to be cared for in an expensive hospital setting.”
But since seniors will still have to go to the hospital, “it’s sort of a distinction without a difference,” he added. For some patients, it could mean higher out-of-pocket charges for care. “This is not about a different care setting or giving more choice to providers,” said Judith Stein, executive director of the Center for Medicare Advocacy. “It’s about Medicare billing practices that will further confuse hospital patients.”
When unveiling the final rule in December, then-CMS Administrator Seema Verma said the change would give seniors and their physicians more options for care “without micromanagement from Washington.” She promised the new policy would also let seniors avoid hospitals, especially during the, and free up needed beds.
CMS did add services that it will cover when provided by ambulatory surgery centers this; the spokesperson said last month. Still, those don’t include procedures that were on the inpatient-only list. Catherine MacLean, chief value medical officer at New York City’s Hospital for Special Surgery, said CMS should have project to ensure it’s safe for patients.
“These are big procedures,” she said, with a lot of “cutting, sewing, and bleeding” that require post-surgery monitoring due to a significant risk of complications, especially for patients with multiple Medicare insurance, but some Medicare Advantage plans sold by private companies have similar policies.. The change applies to adults with government-run
CMS officials said the change responded to numerous requests seeking assurance that payment requirements do not override physicians’ judgment and assessment of their patient’s conditions. But healthcareit.
Even though seniors getting this care will be considered outpatients, they may still stay in the hospital overnight or longer, often on the same floor as those admitted, getting the same nursing care, lab tests, and drugs with one big difference: their bill.
Patients admitted to the hospital typically receive an all-inclusive package of services and pay only thisMedicare hospital deductible of $1,484 for a stay of up to 60 days. They also pay 20 percent of doctors’ charges. Medicare .
Outpatient, with the patient typically paying 20 percent of the Medicare-approved amount for each service. That’s one payment for the outpatient surgery plus, for example, a second payment for blood transfusions, and more depending on what may be included in the surgery charge and how many other separately billed items the patient needs. (And, like admitted patients, outpatients pay 20 percent of doctors’ orders.)
As with other outpatient services, in most cases, each charge cannot exceed $1,484. “However, your total copayment for all outpatient services may be more than the inpatient hospital deductible,” according to the federal government’s annual guide sent to all Medicare beneficiaries.
be hit with a “facility fee” up to several thousand dollars to cover the hospital’s overhead costs, said Richard Gundling, senior vice president at the Healthcare Financial Management Association.
After Medicare pays its portion, outpatients owe 20 percent of the facility fee. And because Medicare prescription drugcover medication ordered for hospital patients, they’re treated as if they have no drug insurance and can be charged excessive amounts for drugs they routinely take at home.
Another item that can be tacked onto the bill for outpatients — but not admitted patients — iswho do not accept the Medicare-approved amount as full payment can charge up to an extra 15 percent of that amount. Medicare pays none of these additional charges.
These surprise expenses can add up even for people who buy supplementary or Medigap health insurance to cushion the sticker shock. These for Medicare-approved charges. Only the most expensive policies cover “excess charges.” Otherwise, when Medicare doesn’t cover something, Medigap doesn’t chip in, so the patient is on the hook for the total charge.
In addition, Stein warned that the new rule will “sometimes limit their Medicare coverage when they need care after leaving the hospital.” Medicare patients don’t qualify forcoverage even if they stay in the hospital for three days. That time because they were not admitted to the hospital — something Medicare patients in the hospital for observation care have complained about for years, forcing some to sue the government for a change.
Outpatients may also find it more challenging to get. Medicare pays home-care agencies more for people after hospital inpatient stays. Still, those who are not admitted may have trouble finding agencies willing to them at Medicare’s lower reimbursement, said Stein.
Since the Biden administration inherited the new policy, critics hope CMS will rescind it. A procedure on the inpatient-only list can still be provided to an admitted hospital patient if healthcare providers can justify the need based on their clinical judgment. But there’s no guarantee that CMS will agree that admission was necessary and cover it.
“The decision ought to be made by the surgeons in consultation with their patients,” said Joseph Bosco, a vice-chair of NYU Langoneof Orthopedic Surgery and president of the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons. “We don’t need the federal government or health insurance companies interfering in the doctor-patient relationship.”
This article was produced by Kaiser. It is an editorially independent with Kaiser Permanente.