Post-acute unified pay could come 'sooner than anticipated,' MedPAC officials say

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A unified Medicare payment system for post-acute care could be implemented sooner than currently expected, MedPAC officials said in a blog post published Wednesday.

Current timetables envision implementation of the unified, site-neutral payment system sometime after 2023, but that goal could be reached even sooner, MedPAC principal analyst Carol Carter wrote in the Health Affairs Blog post.

The group developed models that could create a basis for the unified system using data that's already collected by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. Average payments for most patient groups would be “reasonably accurate” without additional assessment data, Carter wrote. That could help pave the way for early implementation.

Before anything could start, however, CMS would have to create a monitoring program that can pick up on “inappropriate” provider activity, such as choosing to treat some patients and not others, providing unnecessary post-acute care stays and delaying care.

Medicare officials would also need to readjust setting-specific policies, such as conditions of participation, once the system is in place, Carter noted.

The blog post also reiterates key points from MedPAC's June report to Congress and previous meeting reports, including that the unified system is “feasible” and would help reduce “distortions” and incentives for providers to treat some types or patients over others.