Article by Skilled Nursing News

The federal government on Tuesday finalized a predicted funding increase for nursing homes, while also formalizing changes to several key quality programs — with an eye toward clarifying some parts of the new Medicare payment model for skilled nursing facilities.

Under the terms of the 2020 final rule for Medicare skilled nursing facilities, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will increase payments to nursing homes by $851 million in the coming fiscal year, which begins October 1 of this year.

That figure represents a slight drop-off from the increase of $887 million projected in the proposed version of the rule, which CMS released back in April; the $851 million comes from a 2.8% increase to the Medicare market basket rate in the final rule, as opposed to a 3% rise in the proposal.

The Tuesday announcement also includes several clarifications related to the Patient-Driven Payment Model, also set to take effect October 1. CMS formally changed the definition of “group therapy” to any modality with two to six residents performing the same or similar activities. That change brings group therapy in SNFs more in line with other care settings, such as inpatient rehabilitation facilities, which use the same definition; CMS currently defines group therapy as activities with exactly four residents.

“As PDPM implementation takes place, CMS believes aligning the group therapy definition serves to improve the agency’s consistency in payment policies across PAC settings,” the agency wrote in a fact sheet about the changes.

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