CMS Waives Quality Reporting Requirements for Nursing Homes, Delays New MDS

The federal government on Sunday waived several key quality reporting requirements for skilled nursing facilities, framing the move as a way for operators to focus more on patients and less on paperwork during the coronavirus crisis.

The deadlines for submitting fourth-quarter 2019 data under the Skilled Nursing Facility Quality Reporting Program (QRP) and the Value-Based Purchasing Program (SNF VBP) are now optional, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced.

In addition, operators will not be required to submit data for the first two quarters of 2020 “for the purposes of complying with quality reporting program requirements.”

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For the SNF VBP program — under which providers are incentivized to lower hospital readmissions to preserve their Medicare payment rates — qualifying claims will be excluded from the claims-based 30-Day All-Cause Readmission Measure for the first two quarters of this year.

Should providers still submit the optional data, CMS will continue to use fourth-quarter claims to calculate performance and payment “where appropriate.”

“In granting these exceptions and extensions, CMS is supporting clinicians fighting coronavirus on the front lines,” CMS administrator Seema Verma said in a statement. “The Trump administration is cutting bureaucratic red tape so the health care delivery system can direct its time and resources toward caring for patients.”

The move marks the latest emergency measure from CMS amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; the federal government late last week also delayed the release of the 2020 Minimum Data Set, originally scheduled for this coming October 1, “in response to stakeholder concerns.”

The new MDS in particular would have seen the removal of Section G, a step that could have had a trickle-down effect on Medicaid reimbursements throughout the country.

“CMS staff are actively engaged in discussions with various stakeholders regarding the various changes, the impacts of these changes, as well as the compressed timeline to educate and train facility staff and update software and IT systems,” the agency said Friday.

Sunday’s moves also apply to a host of other similar quality reporting programs across the post-acute continuum, including requirements for home health companies, hospice providers, and long-term acute care hospitals (LTACs).

“CMS recognizes that quality measure data collection and reporting for services furnished during this time period may not be reflective of their true level of performance on measures such as cost, readmissions and patient experience during this time of emergency and seeks to hold organizations harmless for not submitting data during this period,” the agency stated.

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