NOTICE Act implementation pushed back to fall

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The Notice of Observation, Treatment and Implication for Care Eligibility Act will go into effect in October, instead of this month, according to a final rule released by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services last week.

CMS' final hospital inpatient payment rule for fiscal year 2017, released last Tuesday, shows that all final provisions included in the rule — such as the NOTICE Act — will become effective on Oct. 1, 2016.

“We recognize that the effective of this final rule will be at some date after the statutory implementation date of August 6, 2016, has passed,” CMS said in the final rule. “We are striving to balance the statutory requirements to provide notice to the specified population with the desire to provide the affected industry sufficient time to put systems and business processes in place to implement the NOTICE Act requirements.”

The Medicare Outpatient Observation Notice, the document used to inform Medicare beneficiaries of their outpatient status within 36 hours after an observation stay begins, must also undergo a 30-day public comment period. That will begin Aug. 22.

The MOON is estimated to be approved around the time the final rule becomes effective, CMS said, placing the actual implementation period for the NOTICE Act after the Oct. 1 effective date. The final, concrete effective date will be announced on the CMS Beneficiary Notices Initiative website.

Patients' time spent in observation status can affect their eligibility for Medicare post-acute care coverage, making the NOTICE Act a hot topic for providers.

Mark Parkinson, president and CEO of the American Health Care Association, recently told the New York Times that “patients often have no idea” of their inpatient or observation status, resulting in a financial burden on seniors who require nursing home care.