CMS reintroduces Comprehensive APCs, proposes expanded packaging

HCPRO Website, July 7, 2014

The 2015 OPPS proposed rule, released July 3 by CMS, is relatively short at less than 700 pages, but contains refinements to the previously introduced Comprehensive APC policy, significant packaging of ancillary services, and a change for inpatient certification requirements.

"In terms of the volume of changes, it's less than we normally see, but in terms of impact, it's on par with last year's big changes," says Kimberly Anderwood Hoy Baker, JD, director of Medicare and Compliance for HCPro, a division of BLR, in Danvers, Massachusetts.
Jugna Shah, MPH, president of Nimitt Consulting, agrees and encourages hospitals to begin assessing financial impact now in light of CMS’ packaging proposals.
Comprehensive APCs
CMS has proposed implementing a concept it finalized in the 2014 OPPS final rule by introducing Comprehensive APCs for device-dependent APCs. With Comprehensive APCs, a single payment will be made rather than separate, individual APC payments, Shah says.
The 2015 OPPS proposed rule includes some lower-cost device-dependent APCs and two new APCs for other procedures and technologies that are either largely device dependent or represent single session services with multiple components. After additional consolidation and restructuring, CMS is now proposing 28 Comprehensive APCs for 2015.
The most significant change to the policy is a proposed "complexity adjustment." The adjustment is applied when a primary procedure assigned to a Comprehensive APC is reported with other specified procedures also assigned to Comprehensive APCs or with a specified packaged add-on code. When the facility reports one of these combinations, CMS will increase the payable APC to the next higher APC in the clinical group, similar to DRGs on the inpatient side.
"This is the first time in OPPS history where we have something like severity adjustment," says Baker.
Device-dependent edits
Instead of eliminating all device-dependent edits, beginning in CY 2015, CMS proposes to require that facilities report a device code for procedures currently assigned to a device-dependent APC.  
Under CMS’ proposal, the device claims edit would be met by reporting any medical device C code currently listed among the device edits for the CY 2014 device-dependent APCs, rather than reporting a particular device C code(s).
“It’s nice that CMS heard commenters’ concerns about the elimination of all device-to-procedure edits altogether and has instead proposed to retain some level of editing," says Shah. "This is critical to ensure that the agency receives completely coded claims for future rate-setting.”
Packaging increases
The rule includes four proposals to continue expanding packaging, a common theme for the OPPS in recent years.
"CMS continues full steam ahead with packaging, and has added an interesting twist to how it’s looking at packaging additional services, using a dollar threshold," Shah says.
CMS proposes to package add-on codes assigned to device-dependent APCs (paid separately in CY 2014) starting in CY 2015, since these device-dependent add-on codes will be paid under the Comprehensive APC policy. These codes are listed in Table 9 of the proposed rule.
CMS also proposes to conditionally package ancillary services that have a geometric mean cost of less than or equal to $100 (with some exceptions, including preventive service, counseling/psychiatry, and drug administration services).
Additionally, CMS proposes to eliminate status indicator X (ancillary services). This means that all CPT® codes currently assigned to status indicator X will either be reassigned to status indicator Q1 (conditionally packaged) or S (significant procedure, not discounted).
If finalized, ancillary services with status indicator Q1 will not generate separate payment when provided on the same date of service as another separately payable procedure with a status indicator of S, T (significant procedure, multiple reduction applies), or V (clinic or ED visit), but will generate separate payment if provided on their own.
Providers will need to carefully examine the proposed changes and assess the financial impact of the proposed packaging changes, which will require an examination of claims rather than individual CPT codes or line items, Shah says.
Finally, CMS proposes to package and change the status indicator from A (services furnished to a hospital outpatient paid under a fee schedule or payment system other than OPPS) to N (items and services packaged into APC rates) for all DMEPOS prosthetic supplies.
CMS says this is consistent with the change it finalized for CY 2014 for all non-prosthetic DMEPOS supplies (with the status indicator changed from A to N). If this proposed change is finalized for CY 2015, then all medical and surgical supplies would be packaged in the OPPS.
Physician certification of inpatient services
CMS is proposing several changes to requirements related to inpatient physician certification, according to Baker.
Although CMS will continue to require a physician order for inpatient services, it will no longer require certification that the stay was medically necessary in most cases. CMS believes that in most cases the admission order, medical record, and progress notes contain sufficient information to support the medical necessity of an inpatient admission without a separate requirement of an additional, formal, physician certification, with two exceptions.
For stays of 20 days or longer and outlier cases, CMS believes physician certification is needed and therefore proposes to require formal physician certification beyond the admission order to substantiate the medical necessity for these cases.
E/M visits
CMS proposed no changes to E/M visit configuration or payment policy methodology in 2015, a year after CMS proposed replacing all E/M visit levels with three HCPCS Level II G-codes. CMS proposes to continue using the single visit G code and existing coding convention for Type A and Type B ED visits, though the agency says it plans on looking at different payment methodologies for the most costly ED trauma-type cases.
Additional proposals
CMS proposed the packaging threshold to remain at $90, the same as CY 2014, and for the average sales price plus 6% remains in effect for all separately payable drugs, biologicals, and radiopharmaceuticals.
CMS proposed no changes to packaging of diagnostic radiopharmaceuticals and contrast agents, or the payment methodology of therapeutic radiopharmaceuticals or brachytherapy for 2015.
To better understand the frequency and type of services furnished in provider-based departments in off-campus locations, CMS proposes a new data collection requirement that, if finalized, would impact both physician and hospital reporting, according to Shah.
Specifically, CMS is proposingto collect this information beginning January 1, 2015, by requiring the use of a new HCPCS modifier that would be reported with every code for physician and outpatient hospital services furnished in an off-campus provider-based department of a hospital.
The modifier would be reported on both the CMS-1500 claim form for physician services and the UB-04 form (CMS Form 1450) for hospital outpatient services. CMS is asking for additional public comment on whether the use of a modifier is the best mechanism for collecting this service-level data.
"If providers do not like or support this option, they need to comment now, because this is the second time CMS has asked for comments and alternatives," Shah says. "If they are not provided, it seems very likely that CMS will finalize this."
CMS will accept comments on the proposed rule until September 2, 2014, and will respond to comments in a final rule to be issued on or around November 1, 2014. The proposed rule will appear in the July 14 issue of the Federal Register.