Article by James M. Berklan, www.mcknights.com

Journalists are supposed to be “words” men and women, but to be honest, I love a good set of numbers as much as anything. Especially when they’re tied to a pertinent analysis.

That’s why I find this period of transition with the Patient Driven Payment Model intoxicating. There’s mystery (Will providers fare well under the drastic overhaul?), cunning (How might providers get the best bang for their buck?) and suspense (What will regulators yank back if they don’t like what they’re seeing?).

And numbers. Lots and lots of numbers.

Wednesday I got a chance to talk initial PDPM numbers with three of the biggest LTC numbers crunchers around, Marc Zimmet, Vince Fedele and Steven Littlehale. We talked about Zimmet Healthcare Services Group’s initial PDPM reimbursement analysis of October Medicare claims.

The overall impression coming out of it? You’re going to be alright, providers. Just as many had predicted, those who did their homework — and vow to keep getting better — should be just fine.

In fact, as colleague Danielle Brown writes in today’s top Daily Update news item, many providers who paid attention in their PDPM educational classes are making, on average, more than $50 more per patient day then they would have under the old RUGs-IV system. When adjusted for one-time exceptions, it’s about half that, but it’s still a big positive. In addition, Zimmet estimates that providers can gain another $40 per patient day more once they get better at coding and, well, simply remembering to claim what they have coming.

While OT and PT therapy pay rates won’t necessarily budge much, better can be had in speech language therapy, nursing and non-therapy ancillary services, Zimmet explained.

A big caveat here: The analysts were clear that theirs was not a random sample and should not be taken as an ironclad predictive argument. The sample included a lot of East Coast clients, and they tended to be on the larger size, but it was still significant and close to what others should be finding.

The biggest worry isn’t so much what PDPM will do to providers’ bottom lines, but, much as I predicted a few weeks ago after talking to a long time marketplace exec: What the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services will do to the flow of cash when it eventually recalibrates pay rates. Because we can assume with these kinds of cheery numbers Uncle Sam will want to get back what he feels is rightly his.

Zimmet predicted with “95% confidence” that a rate readjustment will be coming, eventually. Providers will know in “less than a quarter” how finances will shake out, but CMS will likely take about six months before it makes any pronouncements about rate readjustments.

Make no mistake: This is good. It means you’re not getting riffed right now, wondering how to make ends meet. The CMS policy is not going to be budget neutral — but in a good way.

And the best thing of all is, you can do even better at it once you get better at coding and stop leaving money on the table.

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