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Latest Medicare Law Not an April Fool's Joke

Published on 

Monday, April 7, 2014

On April 1st, President Obama signed into law the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014. Per a White House Press Secretary release this new law “averts cuts to Medicare physician payments that will go into effect on April 1, 2014, under the current-law “sustainable growth rate” system, to extend other health-related provisions set to expire, and to make other changes to current-law health provisions.” In addition to averting cuts to physician payments, this law includes additional “Medicare Extenders” and “Other Health Provisions.” But before looking at some of the more significant topics within the law, it is interesting to note how quickly this bill was presented, voted on and became law.

  • March 26, 2014: Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA), Chairman, Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health introduced H.R. 4302 the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014.
  • March 27, 2014: The House voted by a voice vote and approved the bill. This vote was under special rules that provided for no amendments, limited debate and only needed a two-thirds majority votes.
  • March 31, 2014: The United States Senate passed the bill with a vote of 64 YEAs, 35 NAYs and 1 Not Voting.

April 1, 2014: The Act was signed into law by President Obama signed the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 into Law.

Spotlight on Extensions and Health Provisions in the Law:

Section 101: Physician Payment Update: This section provides for a 0.5 percent update for claims with dates of service on or after January 1, 2014, through December 31, 2013. Further, it provides a zero percent update to the 2015 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) through March 31, 2015.

Section 103: Extension of Therapy Cap Exception Process: This section extends the exceptions process for outpatient therapy caps through March 31, 2015. When a provider requests an exception to the cap for medically necessary services they must submit the KX modifier on their claim. This law extends the application of the caps, exceptions process, and threshold for therapy services provided in a hospital outpatient department (ODP).

Therapy caps for 2014:


  • Occupational Therapy (OT) cap is $1,920
  • Physical Therapy (PT) and Speech-Language Pathology Services (SLP) combined is $1,920


Additional information regarding therapy caps can be found on the CMS Therapy Cap webpage as well as Chapter 5, Section 10.3 in the Medicare Claims Processing Manual.

Section 106: Extension of the Medicare-Dependent Hospital (MDH) Program: This program provides enhanced payment to small rural hospitals where Medicare beneficiaries makes up a significant percentage of inpatient days or discharges. This provision extends the program through March 31, 2015.

More information about MDH Hospitals can be found in the Acute Care Hospital Inpatient Prospective Payment System Fact Sheet. Specific criteria to be designated a MDH Hospital includes:


  • It is rural (located in a rural area);
  • It has 100 or fewer beds during the cost reporting period;
  • It is not also classified as a Sole Community Hospital (SCH); and
  • At least 60 percent of its inpatient days or discharges were attributable to Medicare Beneficiaries entitled to Part A during the hospital’s cost reporting period.


Section 111: Extension of Two-Midnight Rule:

For hospital staff closely involved in trying to implement the Two-Midnight Rule, I felt it was important to provide you with the exact language in the bill.

“(a) CONTINUATION OF CERTAIN MEDICAL REVIEW ACTIVITIES.— The Secretary of Health and Human Services may continue medical review activities described in the notice entitled ‘‘Selecting Hospital

Claims for Patient Status Reviews: Admissions On or After October 1, 2013’’, posted on the Internet website of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, through the first 6 months of fiscal year

2015 for such additional hospital claims as the Secretary determines appropriate. (b) LIMITATION.—The Secretary of Health and Human Services shall not conduct patient status reviews (as described in such notice) on a post-payment review basis through recovery audit contractors under section 1893(h) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395ddd(h)) for inpatient claims with dates of admission October 1, 2013, through March 31, 2015, unless there is evidence of systematic gaming, fraud, abuse, or delays in the provision of care by a provider of services (as defined in section 1861(u) of such Act (42 U.S.C. 1395x(u))).”

What does this mean for hospitals?


  • The Medicare Administrative Contractor (MAC) Probe and Educate program has now been extended for a fourth time through March 31, 2015.
  • Recovery Audit Contractors “shall not conduct patient status reviews on a post-payment review basis” for inpatient claims with dates of service October 1, 2013 through March 31, 2015. It is important to remember that on February 18th CMS announced that current RAC activity is winding down during the new contract procurement round.
  • Hospitals should take advantage of this additional time to continue to educate staff and fine tune your processes.

Section 212: Delay in Transition for ICD-9 to ICD-10 Code Sets

“The Secretary of Health and Human Services may not, prior to October 1, 2015, adopt ICD–10 code sets as the standard for code sets under section 1173(c) of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1320d–2(c)) and section 162.1002 of title 45, Code of Federal Regulations.”

This is a significant delay for everyone that has been proactively planning and providing education for an October 1, 2014 transition to the ICD-10 Code Sets. MMP plans to continue to provide I-10 Corner articles and encourages all to not look at this as a setback but as an opportunity to provide more training to your staff and test the readiness of your computer systems.

Section 221: Medicaid DSH

This law delays reductions in payments to Disproportionate Share Hospitals (DSH) by a year and then makes additional reductions through 2024.

There are still quite a few extensions and provisions not discussed in this article. MMP encourages those interested to review the Protecting Access to Medicare Act of 2014 in its entirety.

Article Author: Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS
Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system. In her current position, Beth is a principle writer for MMP’s Wednesday@One weekly e-newsletter, an active member of our HIPAA Compliance Committee, MMP’s Education Department Program Director and co-developer of MMP’s proprietary Compliance Protection Assessment Tool.

This material was compiled to share information.  MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.