CMS Reevaluates Accelerated Payment Program and Suspends Advance Payment Program

On April 26, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that it is reevaluating the amounts that will be paid under its Accelerated Payment Program and suspending its Advance Payment Program to Part B suppliers effective immediately. The agency made this announcement following the successful payment of over $100 billion to health care providers and suppliers through these programs and in light of the $175 billion recently appropriated for health care provider relief payments.

CMS had expanded these temporary loan programs to ensure providers and suppliers had the resources needed to combat the beginning stages of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19). Funding will continue to be available to hospitals and other health care providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response primarily from the Provider Relief Fund.

Read press release here.

Access updated fact sheet here.

Will Your Documentation Stand Up in a Post-Pay Review Following the COVID-19 Pandemic?

The current SNF coverage decisions, under the COVID-19 Section 1135 Waivers, allow providers to render skilled services to LTC residents, considered “skilling in place.” It is important to note that the previous requirements for skilled care need as defined in Chapter 8, Section 30 of the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual remain unchanged.

The quality of our documentation should not change regardless of payer; however, when an 1135 waiver is evoked, extensive care should be taken to document the reasoning for the initiation of the Part A benefit (e.g., change in condition) and why the qualifying event (e.g., 3 day hospital stay or wellness period) was waived. According to CMS FAQs regarding the waivers, if “continued skilled care need…is unrelated to the COVID-19 emergency, then the beneficiary cannot renew his or her SNF benefits.”

Relation to the emergency may include:

  • early hospital discharge due to resource need or
  • avoiding hospital transfer due to exposure risk.

Documentation is our defense when under review—as we continue to provide care to our residents, educate nursing and therapy to demonstrate the complexity, sophistication, and medical necessity of the services provided throughout the episode of care. Our services have a positive impact on many areas of the patient’s life. It’s important that the work we do with each of them carries over onto paper to fortify defensibility following this pandemic and to ensure our patients continue to have access to quality care. 

Review the Medicare Part A waive memo here.

Review CMS FAQs for 1135 waivers here. (SNF Services may be found on pages 34-35)

AHCA Waiver Application Decision Making Flowcharts:

Medicare Beneficiary Chapter 8 Qualifications

As defined in Chapter 8, Section 30 of the Medicare Benefit Policy Manual, the following are required and should be considered when determining a patient’s qualifications for Medicare Part A coverage in the SNF setting:

  • The patient requires skilled nursing services or skilled rehabilitation services, i.e., services that must be performed by or under the supervision of professional or technical personnel (see §§30.2 – 30.4); are ordered by a physician and the services are rendered for a condition for which the patient received inpatient hospital services or for a condition that arose while receiving care in a SNF for a condition for which he received inpatient hospital services;
  • The patient requires these skilled services on a daily basis (see §30.6); and 
  • As a practical matter, considering economy and efficiency, the daily skilled services can be provided only on an inpatient basis in a SNF. (See §30.7.)
  • The services delivered are reasonable and necessary for the treatment of a patient’s illness or injury, i.e., are consistent with the nature and severity of the individual’s illness or injury, the individual’s particular medical needs, and accepted standards of medical practice. The services must also be reasonable in terms of duration and quantity.

Care Matters Spotlight: Leisure Village Achieves 100% Clinical Ladder Champion Level I Facility

Reliant’s Clinical Advancement Ladder was created to recognize therapists who have a high level of expertise in an area of clinical practice. Therapists may specialize in one of many tracks including cardiopulmonary, dementia, dysphagia, geriatrics, neurology, orthopedics, or wound care. Therapists emulate Reliant Rehabilitation’s core principles while providing mentorship and education to fellow therapists, as well as exemplary patient care that leads to successful outcomes. Since its launch one year ago, we have over 120 therapists across the country who have earned the status of Champion Level I.

This month, we would like to give a “shout out” to our therapy staff at Leisure Village Health Care Community in Tulsa, OK.  All the therapists at this facility have achieved Champion Level I on Reliant’s Clinical Advancement Ladder.  Congratulations team and “Way to Go!”

A group of people posing for a photo

Description automatically generated

Pictured: (starting at the top then clockwise) Donna Miller, Colleen Weber, Jennifer Smith, Brittain Keifer, Christina Casey, Mike Larkins and (in the center) Director of Rehabilitation Ashley Howard

COVID-19 LTC Transfer Scenarios

CMS has provided supplemental information for transferring or discharging residents between skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) and/or nursing facilities based on COVID-19 status (i.e., positive, negative, unknown/under observation). In general, if two or more certified LTC facilities want to transfer or discharge residents between themselves for the purposes of cohorting, they do not need any additional approval to do so. However, if a certified LTC facility would like to transfer or discharge residents to a non-certified location for the purposes of cohorting, they need approval from the State Survey Agency.

A copy of the guidance can be found here

New Regulatory Reporting Requirements for COVID-19 Cases in SNFs

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new regulatory requirements that will require nursing homes to inform residents and resident representatives of COVID-19 cases in their facilities.

In addition, CMS will now require nursing homes to report cases of COVID-19 directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The CDC will be providing a reporting tool to nursing homes that will support Federal efforts to collect nationwide data to assist in COVID-19 surveillance and response.

For more information on the upcoming requirements for reporting, click here.

CMS Issues FY 2021 SNF Proposed Payment Rule

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule for fiscal year 2021 that updates Medicare payment rates and the quality programs for skilled nursing facilities. If finalized, updates would take effect October 1, 2020.

For more information on proposals including a market basket increase, monitoring of the PDPM clinical diagnosis mapping, changes in SNF PPS wage index, and SNF VBP updates, review Reliant’s Real Time Memo.

Click for the SNF PPS CMS Fact Sheet and for the Proposed Rule.

Comments are being accepted until June 9, 2020.

Coronavirus Scams

There are increasing reports of scams and phishing attempts referencing COVID-19. These attacks many times appear as innocent emails looking for assistance or providing information regarding the COVID-19 crisis. Bad Actors are taking advantage of this crisis to prosper or do damage.  Their criminal actions are becoming more and more sophisticated and look very official as though coming from government agencies and health organizations.

It is critical to remain vigilant with all email correspondence and websites, but particularly those referencing COVID-19 updates, maps, donations, notifications etc.

To avoid becoming a victim, follow the guidelines below:

  • Never click on links or open attachments within unexpected emails.
  • If you receive a suspicious email appearing to come from a legitimate organization such as CDC, WHO, FEMA etc., confirm its legitimacy.  Make sure links direct you to the official site by hovering over the link.  Report suspicious email to your company’s Information Security Department.
  • If you visit a website or receive a pop-up window directing you to a phone number for support desk assistance, DO NOT call the number, instead contact your company’s Information Security Department.
  • Never share your password with anyone.

Trends noted to date include:

  • Malicious Websites – sites referencing coronavirus or COVID-19 in the URL. Thousands of new websites have recently been registered to distribute malware when the user accesses the site.
  • Spam – emails trying to grab your attention to sell information or goods now in high demand such as masks, hand sanitizers, COVID-19 drugs, etc.
  • Phishing – emails posing to be from legitimate organizations such as Center for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), etc. These emails contain malicious links, and some are collecting personal information.
  • Fake Charities – emails and websites asking for donations for studies, healthcare professionals, victims, or other activities related to COVID-19
  • Fake internal HR or IT communications such as coronavirus surveys pretending to be from your company’s HR or IT department – these sites are attempting to obtain your User ID and password or other personal information.
  • Fake notification of infection – beware of emails reporting you have been exposed to an infected individual, particularly ones asking for personal information to proceed.

 Always Think Before You Click.

COVID-19: Answering the Call

Because our patients and residents typically are older, often have underlying chronic medical conditions and live in a community together, they are at the highest risk of being affected by COVID-19. During this unprecedented time, our residents rely on the members of their interdisciplinary team to ensure that their health and safety needs are met.

With a team approach of collaboration, communication and demonstration of the value and essence of our skilled professions, we will answer the call to protect this vulnerable population in the pursuit of No Patient Left Behind. Whether it’s clinical considerations in the recovery wake of a COVID-19 diagnosis or ensuring they are supported to continue to attain and maintain the highest level of practicable function within this modified environment, nursing facilities are equipped to meet the needs of the residents who call our facilities home.

Each member of the interdisciplinary team – including therapy, nursing and administrative team members – has specific skills that can help meet the residents’ needs. Collaborative efforts to integrate each team member’s contributions allow for greater positive impact on the care provided.  Timely and effective communication of changes in function should be ongoing between nursing and therapy to identify emerging conditions and potential symptoms of COVID-19.  Each patient is unique and requires screenings relative to their specific diagnoses, history and risks. It is our imperative to ensure dignity, quality of life and the highest level of independence possible. Members of the care team have been empowered to own their distinct role in resident-centered advocacy, which ultimately leads to successful outcomes.

Any member of the interdisciplinary team can lead the advocacy efforts for each resident by observing changes in the resident’s ability, ensuring timely notification, developing a resident-specific plan of care and thoroughly planning for the next level of care. Care delivery must be adapted by team members to occur in bundled sessions with enhanced in-room treatment techniques. By working together, we can help curb the potential anxiety and psychosocial effects perpetuated by a world in pandemic and affirm that no patient is left behind.

Understanding How Stress Effects the Body

Learn more about how stress wreaks havoc with your body during Stress Awareness Month. Never underestimate the damage stress can cause. Check out our fun infographic for some great tips for reducing stress.

Notice these signs of stress:

  • Headaches
  • Heartburn
  • Muscle tension
  • Rapid breathing
  • Pounding heart
  • High blood sugar
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Stomach ache
  • High blood pressure
  • Weakened immune system                           

Here’s how key body systems react:

Nervous System. When stressed, the body shifts its energy resources to fighting off the perceived threat. In what is known as the “fight or flight” response, the sympathetic nervous system signals the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones make the heart beat faster, raise blood pressure, change the digestive process and boost glucose levels in the bloodstream.

Musculoskelatal System. Under stress, muscles tense up. Over time this can trigger headaches, including migraines and severe cramps.

Respiratory System. Stress can cause rapid and more labored breathing—or hyperventilation—which can bring on panic attacks.

Cardiovascular System. Acute stress causes an increase in heart rate and stronger contractions of the heart muscle. Blood vessels that direct the blood to the large muscles (including the heart) dilate, increasing the amount of blood pumped to these parts of the body. Over time, this can cause inflammation of the coronary arteries thought to lead to heart attack.

Endocrine System. With stress, the brain sends signals to produce “stress hormones.” When this happens, the liver produces more glucose, a blood sugar that would be available to give you more energy for “fight or flight,” but that otherwise can cause a diabetic reaction.

Gastrointestinal System. Stress may prompt you to eat more (or less) than normal. If you eat more or different foods you may experience heartburn or acid reflux. In addition, your stomach may have “butterflies” which can turn into nausea or pain, and your bowels might not absorb food properly resulting in constipation or diarrhea.