CMS, providers laud passage of Medicare extenders legislation

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Sheila Lambowitz
Sheila Lambowitz

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and long-term care groups Thursday expressed relief that Congress passed a bill restoring the implementation date of the RUG-IV classification system to Oct. 1, 2010.

“We'll continue to use that system and we will not have to make an additional change next year,” said Sheila Lambowitz, director of the Division of Institutional Post Acute Care at CMS. She spoke shortly after the House passed the measure during the Skilled Nursing Facility/ Long Term Care Open Door Forum.

She noted that all the knowledge CMS and providers have gained about MDS 3.0 and RUG-IV “will not go to waste.”

Passage of the bill “gives us some clarity to move forward and work on transition issues and make sure we have the RUG-IV and MDS 3.0 system working properly,” she said.

The House Thursday passed the Medicare and Medicaid Extenders Act of 2010 (H.R. 4994) by a vote of 409-2. The Senate passed the $19.2 billion package the day before. Besides repealing the delay of RUG-IV, which works with the MDS 3.0 resident assessment tool, the measure extends the therapy caps exceptions process through 2011. It also extends the physician fee schedule “doc fix” through December 31, 2011.

The American Health Care Association, the Alliance for Quality Nursing Home Care, and the National Association for the Support of Long Term Care hailed passage of the legislation.

“Passage of the legislation averts what would have been a major meltdown in the Medicare system beginning January 1, 2011,” NASL Executive Vice President Cynthia Morton said in a statement.  

Still, NASL noted that the measure only temporarily repairs problems related to Medicare payment cuts for doctors and the therapy caps for nursing home residents. 

“It represents another temporary patch for problems that need long-term repairs,” NASL said.