Mandatory Payment Reductions in the Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) Program – “Sequestration”
The Budget Control Act of 2011 requires, among other things, mandatory across-the-board reductions in Federal spending, also known as sequestration. The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 postponed sequestration for 2 months. As required by law, President Obama issued a sequestration order on March 1, 2013. The Administration continues to urge Congress to take prompt action to address the current budget uncertainty and the economic hardships imposed by sequestration. Meanwhile, Medicare Fee for Service payments to healthcare providers will be affected by the sequestration as described below.
In general, Medicare FFS claims with dates-of-service or dates-of-discharge on or after April 1, 2013, will incur a 2 percent reduction in Medicare payment. Claims for durable medical equipment (DME), prosthetics, orthotics, and supplies, including claims under the DME Competitive Bidding Program, will be reduced by 2 percent based upon whether the date-of-service, or the start date for rental equipment or multi-day supplies, is on or after April 1, 2013. Additionally, to prevent making overpayments, interim and pass-through payments related to the Medicare cost report will be reduced by 2 percent. Beginning April 1, 2013, the 2 percent reduction will be applied to Periodic Interim Payments (PIP), Critical Access Hospital (CAH) and Cancer Hospital interim payments, and pass-through payments for Graduate Medical Education, Organ Acquisition, and Medicare Bad Debts.
Payment adjustments required under sequestration are applied to all claims after determining the Medicare payment including application of the current fee schedule, coinsurance, any applicable deductible, and any applicable Medicare Secondary Payment adjustments. All fee schedules, Pricers, etc., are unchanged by sequestration; it’s only the final payment amount that is reduced.
Though beneficiary payments for deductibles and coinsurance are not subject to the 2 percent payment reduction, Medicare’s payment to beneficiaries for unassigned claims is subject to the 2 percent reduction. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services encourages Medicare physicians, practitioners, and suppliers who bill claims on an unassigned basis to discuss with beneficiaries the impact of sequestration on Medicare’s reimbursement.
Questions about reimbursement should be directed to your Medicare claims administration contractor. As indicated above, we are hopeful that Congress will take action to eliminate the mandatory payment reductions. Look for the CMS bulletins and news updates for further information on sequestration.