CMS announces a new user-centered resource to help improve alignment: the CMS Measures Inventory Tool (CMIT)

By Kate Goodrich, MD
Director, CMS Center for Clinical Standards and Quality & CMS Chief Medical Officer

CMS is actively working to move the needle on improving quality in healthcare without additional burden to those providers on the frontlines. CMS recently launched a new initiative, ‘Meaningful Measures,’ which will streamline current measure sets – so providers can focus on the measures that are most impactful – and will move from process measures to outcome measures where possible. A great deal of attention has also been focused on alignment of quality measures within CMS and with commercial payers, and we are committed to working towards alignment of these measures to ensure delivery of high quality care to all Americans while minimizing burden on providers.

I am pleased to announce that CMS is deploying an innovative tool that provides all stakeholders improved visibility into the portfolio of CMS measures. The CMS Measures Inventory Tool (CMIT), an interactive web-based application that contains the same information that is currently included on the  Excel spreadsheet, provides a comprehensive list of measures that are currently under development, implemented for use, and have been removed from a CMS quality program or initiative.  The intuitive and user-friendly functions allow you to find measures quickly and to compile and refine sets of related measures. The tool increases transparency and can be used to identify measures across the continuum of care and will help coordinate measurement efforts across all conditions, settings, and populations.  We have expanded the information contained in the inventory to better answer questions we have heard from the public; the CMIT lists each measure by program, dates of measure consideration and implementation, and measure specifications including, but not limited to, numerator, denominator, exclusion criteria, measure type, and National Quality Forum (NQF) endorsement status.

CMIT is an innovative approach that will help to promote the goal of increased alignment across programs and with other payers.  We believe it is an easy to use valuable resource to various stakeholders, including commercial payers, clinicians, patients and measure developers.

For more information about CMIT and to access the tool, please visit the CMS.gov website.

Administrator’s Blog: National Rural Health Day (November 16, 2017)

November 16, 2017

By: Seema Verma, CMS Administrator @SeemaCMS 

Today, CMS is celebrating National Rural Health Day by commemorating our partners who provide quality care to the nearly one in five Americans who reside in rural communities. CMS recognizes the unique challenges facing rural America, and we are taking action to improve access and quality for healthcare providers serving rural patients.

This fall, I have been visiting communities throughout the country to learn more about issues critical to improving access to rural healthcare. I travelled to Kansas City and visited the headquarters of the National Rural Health Association to talk with key leadership and stakeholders to hear how CMS can reduce the challenges rural communities face. CMS is committed to evaluating our policies and looking at each of them through a rural lens to ensure rural providers greater flexibility and less regulatory burden.

New technologies are emerging that have strong promise to address access issues in rural communities. CMS is trying to modernize the Medicare program so that beneficiaries can make use of the new technology. For example, CMS recently released new telehealth payment codes in Medicare so more services can be accessed in rural areas. This is only the beginning of our overall strategy to update our programs and improve access to high quality services.

Rural hospitals also face challenges in recruiting physicians. CMS is addressing this challenge by placing a two-year moratorium on the direct supervision requirement for outpatient therapeutic services at Critical Access Hospitals and small rural hospitals. This policy helps to ensure access to outpatient therapeutic services for Medicare beneficiaries living in rural communities and provides regulatory relief to America’s small rural hospitals. In Medicare Advantage plans, we are working to ensure network standards offer the flexibility needed to provide greater health care plan choices to rural beneficiaries. These reforms are in line with our focus on improving the beneficiary experience.

In response to feedback received from Critical Access Hospitals and other rural stakeholders, CMS recently announced that Critical Access Hospitals should no longer expect to receive medical record reviews related to the 96-hour certification requirement absent concerns of probable fraud, waste, or abuse. 

We are also now providing technical assistance and greater flexibilities to small and rural clinicians to help facilitate their participation in the Quality Payment Program (QPP). These efforts are aligned with our goal of reducing regulatory burden so clinicians are able to spend more time on patient care and healthier outcomes, and less time on paperwork. One way we have done this is to provide free and customized technical assistance to support small and rural clinicians every step of the way, as well as assistance through our Service Center, Regional Offices, and the QPP page on cms.gov.

We have finalized several policies to reduce burdens and help clinicians in small practices successfully participate in the QPP program. Some of these include:

  • Increasing the “low volume threshold,” which is the maximum amount of Medicare revenue and the maximum number of Medicare patients that a clinician can have while being excluded from the new requirements, to exclude more small practices from QPP.
  • Adding an option for clinicians to come together in “virtual groups” to report data together and share the burden of meeting the new requirements.
  • Continuing to award small practices a minimum of three points for quality measures, recognizing that small practices may not be able to pull together the amount of data as easily as large practices.
  • Providing small practices with a new hardship exception to some of the EHR reporting requirements.
  • Adding five bonus points to the final performance score for small practices.

In our effort to consider a new direction that promotes patient-centered care and test market-driven reforms, the CMS Innovation Center is currently seeking suggestions on improving rural healthcare by way of a recently released Request for Information (RFI). The opportunity to provide recommendations for the new direction closes November 20 and if you have not already, we hope you will share your thoughts.

CMS has also developed a number of resources to help rural providers and other stakeholders.  To improve the customer experience and further empower our rural providers, we are centralizing rural healthcare resources into a single website which you can find here.

And finally, CMS does not operate in a vacuum.  We work closely with other federal partners including the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Office of the National Coordinator, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, among others, to ensure our efforts to improve care in rural America are consistent with those agencies’ rural initiatives. CMS will continue to listen to, work with, and value the input from rural stakeholders.  Together, we can improve care in rural America.  Happy National Rural Health Day!

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CMS’s 2017 Medicare Fee-For-Service improper payment rate is below 10 percent for the first time since 2013  

 CMS Blog
https://blog.cms.gov/2017/11/15/cmss-2017-medicare-fee-for-service-improper-payment-rate-is-below-10-percent

November 15, 2017
By Kimberly Brandt, Principal Deputy Administrator for Operations (@cms.hhs.gov)

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is committed to reducing improper payments in all of its programs, as evidenced by improper payment reduction efforts contained in the Fiscal Year 2018 President’s Budget. CMS’s new leadership is re-examining existing corrective actions and exploring new and innovative approaches to reducing improper payments, while minimizing burden for its partners. Due to the successes of actions we’ve put into place to reduce improper payments, the Medicare Fee-For-Service (FFS) improper payment rate decreased from 11.0 percent in 2016 to 9.5 percent in 2017, representing a $4.9 billion decrease in estimated improper payments. The 2017 Medicare FFS estimated improper payment rate represents claims incorrectly paid between July 1, 2015 and June 30, 2016. This is the first time since 2013 that the Medicare FFS improper payment rate is below the 10 percent threshold for compliance established in the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act of 2010.

Improper payments are not always indicative of fraud, nor do they necessarily represent expenses that should not have occurred.  For example, instances where there is insufficient or no documentation to support the payment as proper are cited as improper payments under current Office of Management and Budget guidance.  The majority of Medicare FFS improper payments are due to documentation errors where CMS could not determine whether the billed items or services were actually provided, were billed at the appropriate level, and/or were medically necessary. A smaller proportion of Medicare FFS improper payments are payments for claims CMS determined should not have been made or should have been made in a different amount, representing a known monetary loss to the program.

Figure 1 provides information on Medicare FFS improper payments that are a known “monetary loss” to the program (i.e. medical necessity, incorrect coding, and other errors). The estimated known “monetary loss” improper payment rate is 3.0 percent, representing an estimated known monetary loss of $11.3 billion out of the total estimated improper payments of $36.2 billion.  In the figure, “unknown” represents payments where there was no or insufficient documentation to support the payment as proper or a known monetary loss. In other words, when payments lack the appropriate supporting documentation, their validity cannot be determined.  These are payments where more documentation is needed to determine if the claims were payable or if they should be considered monetary losses to the program.

Figure 1: FY 2017 Medicare FFS Improper Payments (in Millions) and Percentage of Improper Payments by Monetary Loss and Type of Error

 11-15-2017

CMS continues to implement tools and work with law enforcement partners and other key stakeholders to help focus on prevention, early detection, and data sharing to prevent and reduce improper payments in Medicare FFS.  Although documentation errors are the largest cause of improper payments, CMS employs multi-layered efforts to target all root causes of improper payments, with an emphasis on prevention-oriented activities.

CMS is pleased to have achieved this reduction in the improper payment rate, but we still have work to do.  We remain committed to collaborating across CMS and with stakeholders to address potential vulnerabilities and continuing to strengthen our program integrity efforts, while minimizing burden for our partners.

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Thank You For Your Service

CMS BLOG
https://blog.cms.gov/2017/11/11/thank-you-for-your-service

November 9, 2017
By:  Seema Verma, CMS Administrator

Thank You for Your Service

We’ve all heard the stories of bravery and sacrifice, or have personally experienced the inspiring dedication to service of our US Military veterans, but for me their heroism was made real on a visit to Normandy.

Early in the morning on D-Day, June 6, 1944, Army Rangers climbed the cliffs of Point-du-Hoc to the west of Omaha Beach to destroy a battery of 155mm German cannons on top of the cliff. As I stood there, viewing these cliffs as a tourist, I couldn’t help but imagine the fear that must’ve been going through their minds as they scaled those massive, rocky cliffs under heavy German fire, only to reach the top and face even heavier opposition. How, in the face of what they must have considered certain death, they pressed on knowing the importance of their mission, and that their actions would save countless American and foreign lives.

I then went to see the cemetery where those lost on D-Day, including the Army Rangers who died while taking that hill, were buried. While looking at that field of graves, I found myself emotionally overwhelmed thinking about how these men died for the freedom and safety of people they didn’t know and would never meet.

As a public servant, on this day and every day, I think about the sacrifices of America’s Veterans, both dead and living, that inspire me to also make sacrifices so that others can live better lives. When I think about the work we do at CMS, I think about those Rangers, I think about the price they paid for our freedoms, and I think about the fact that their sacrifice should be honored by making sure that we serve our country in a manner worthy of their heroism.

America’s veterans are heroes. CMS currently employs 591 veterans, comprising 10% of our workforce. Last year we hired 38 veterans, and will continue to recruit and retain veterans within our ranks because they not only bring a wealth of knowledge and skill, but a profound sense of honor and dedication to public service that is an important quality in all CMS employees.

To America’s veterans, thank you for your service, and your devotion to our country. We at CMS will never take for granted what you have done for us and for this country. On behalf of myself, my family, and CMS employees currently serving all across our country, I hope you have a great Veterans Day, you’ve earned it.

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