John O'Connor
John O’Connor

Journalists are taught early to avoid “burying the lead.” In layman’s terms, this means to make sure the important stuff gets addressed early in a story.

But as far as skilled care is concerned, recent reporting on a major Medicare bill has all but overlooked what’s in the bill for the sector. And it’s not trivial.

To recap, the House of Representatives last week passed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. Virtually all the stories about this measure have focused on how it targets doc payments and electronic health records. More to the point, almost all have pointed out that the measure would prevent the 24% payment cut for doctors who treat Medicare patients by replacing it on April 1 with adoption of a 0.5% update through Dec. 1. Some reports have also added that the measure would push back the ICD-10 implementation deadline by one year, to Oct. 1, 2015.

These are certainly relevant issues. But if you happen to be a long-term care professional, they hardly compare to the bill’s intentions for your future Medicare payments.

As McKnight’s reported, the measure also introduces a “value-based purchasing” plan for skilled nursing facilities, based on their hospital readmissions. This development would appear to be positive news for the field. Essentially, the government would withhold 2% of SNFs’ Medicare payments starting in Oct. 2018, and about 70% of those dollars would then by distributed to high-performing providers with reduced hospital readmissions. It’s certainly a welcome relief from market basket cuts.

And unless you’ve been reading McKnight’s, there’s a good chance you still wouldn’t know what’s in this bill for you.

John O’Connor is McKnight’s Editorial Director.