CMS Physician Fee Schedule: 2023 Final Rule - Breakthrough

CMS Physician Fee Schedule: 2023 Final Rule

Mary Daulong, Founder and CEO of BCMS, discusses the final rule of the 2023 CMS Physician Fee Schedule.

Medicare reimbursement cuts for physical therapists have been finalized for 2023.

On November 01, 2022, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released the final rule for the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and other Medicare Part B issues, effective on or after January 1, 2023. Here’s what we know. 

To help physical therapists and practice owners understand the final cuts to Medicare reimbursements in 2023, we’ve reassembled last year’s panel which discussed the 2022 Medicare Cuts.

Chad Madden, co-founder of Breakthrough, Mary Daulong and Alicia Mahoney—CEO and COO at Business & Clinical Management Services (BCMS)—linked up once more to discuss the 2023 changes to the CMS Physician Fee Schedule. They hosted a live Q&A with hundreds of interested practice owners and therapists. 

When you next have time, we highly recommend checking out the webinar recording

A summary of that conversation, including the key things you need to know about next year’s Medicare Cuts, is documented in this article.  

Q: What are the key changes proposed for the 2023 medicare payments?

A: In a nutshell…

  • The CY 2023 fee schedule conversion factor is $33.08, a 4.42% decrease (or $1.53) from the CY 2022—the lowest since the 1990s.
  • The Assistant Payment Differential (APD) is here to stay.
  • Assistant supervision is scheduled to expire at the end of 2022, but Medicare is proposing to extend the ability for therapists to conduct general supervision.
  • Therapists are still not on the permanent list of telehealth suppliers/providers.

Q: How can we minimize revenue reductions caused by the APD?

A: As much as many of us would love for this not to be the case, Assistant Payment Differential (APD) is looking more and more like it’s here to stay. When we look at our neighboring professions, we see how they have been dealing with it in a similar way for years. The good news is, there are actionable steps we can take to minimize revenue reductions caused by APD. These include:

  1. Avoiding co-managing a visit with an assistant. It lessens the administrative burden of counting time, which saves money
  2. Do not use assistants to help with evaluations and re-evaluations, as it will decrease the fee paid by Medicare
  3. Use assistants to perform the objective elements of Progress Reports, as this is not billable to Medicare

Q: Will Assistant Supervision rules be adapted or changed in 2023?

A: As many of you will know, during the pandemic therapists were allowed to conduct ‘general supervision’ of clients and patients which allowed for audio-visual supervision to take place as opposed to direct supervision. General supervision however is scheduled to expire at the end of 2022, although Medicare is proposing that it continues—despite not providing a clear target on the calendar. We will update our community as soon as we have a clearer consensus.  

Q: Are there any changes about who can and cannot provide Telehealth in 2023?

A: Therapists are still not on the permanent list of telehealth suppliers/providers. However, the House has passed the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID-19 Act. This bill that would extend the CMS waiver permits for telehealth by therapists until December 31st, 2024, regardless of the status of the Public Health Emergency (PHE). This is a great opportunity to write or call your state representatives and senators to see if they can take this further than 2024. 

Because of the PHE—as mentioned above—there is a temporary public health emergency waiver that allows telehealth to continue through the year that the PHE ends (currently set for 2023) +151 days. After these 151 days, practitioners will be required to use the following updated POS indicators for telehealth services:

  1. POS “02” – This code will be redefined if finalized as Telehealth Provided Other than in Patient’s Home
  2. POS “10” – This code would be redefined if finalized as Telehealth Provided in Patient’s Home

There are still geographical laws and regulations that must be abided by at a state level. For example, if you wish to provide telehealth to a patient in Florida whilst you’re in New York, your practice act must permit you to perform telehealth in both states.  

Q: What are the most common causes of Medicare audits and compliance costs?

A: Being routinely compliant across the board can save your business large amounts of money. This is especially important in today’s climate, as Medicare audits have skyrocketed and many private practices are getting stung simply by being underprepared and unorganized.

For Medicare, the most common audits were Post Payments, Supplemental Medical Review Contractors, and TPE audits. The most common HIPAA violations in 2021 were Illegal Access to PHI, Lack of Security Risk Analysis, and failure to have a Risk Management Process. OSHA violations that tripped up private practices included Failure to Provide Respiratory Protection, effective Hazard Communication, and PPE. 

Q: As practice owners, how do we deal with rising inflation and cuts to Medicare reimbursements?

A: A 4.4% decrease in Medicare reimbursements paired with 8-9% inflation (with a possibility of going higher) will be costly. Practices need to plan for a counteroffensive if they want to stay open and maintain profitability. The good news is, there are lots of tactics one can employ to improve profit margins, save on expenses and survive trying times such as these. You can: 

  • Optimizing staff schedules
  •  Minimize unnecessary overheads (like unused rental space)
  •  Attract patients — new and past patients

Q: What are 3 ways to increase our practice’s topline revenue?

A: In theory, it’s remarkably simple…

  1. Attract new patients
  2. Increase per patient revenue
  3. Reactivate past patients

It’s the execution that is the hard part. 

Breakthrough’s leading Patient Demand Platform makes it easy. Designed specifically for physical thearpy practices, the tool offers pre-built campaigns and automation that generate consistent, predictable revenue growth. 

Click here to schedule a demo.

Q: In our electronic medical records, why can’t both names show on the progress report document, or have a statement describing the exact involvement of the therapist and PTA?

A: Both names can appear on a Progress Report document, but the exact involvement of all parties from a regulatory perspective must be extremely clear so that when Medicare audits you, everything is above board. There must be proof the PTA has not done more than what they are allowed to. This is particularly important to do when you cannot simply eliminate your PTA from signing the report altogether. This doesn’t have to be a complex legal dissertation every time—it could be a previously written succinct statement that’s used universally throughout your clinic.

Q: Will we require an order from an MD in order to be paid from Medicare?

A: No. In short, to be paid by Medicare, your patient’s certified plan of care just needs to be laid out and accepted by their physician. It is always worth double-checking the legislation in your state of practice though. 

Q: How often are progress reports required, and does a Plan of Care certification need to be completed every 90 days? 

A: A progress report is required every 10th visit or less—there is no specific time frame attached to how often this is on a time/calendar basis. Plan of Care certification on the other hand, is on a time basis, and must be re-certified every 90 days

Q: How can we get reimbursed for treatments rendered if a patient self refers and begins the 10 sessions Medicare allows, but doesn’t get sign-off from their physician?

A: It is rare that a patient’s physician doesn’t sign the Plan of Care, as the physician has to comply with Medicare regulations. But in the rare case a patient’s physician doesn’t sign the Plan of Care, a Technical Denial occurs and the financial liability is then passed onto the patient. This is why it is really important to inform the patient that you are operating under a Plan of Care to avoid placing them in this financially vulnerable situation. If the physician still refuses to sign, speak with your patient and let them know that they will need to contact their doctor and request signature for the rest of the Plan of Care to continue under Medicare. 

Still unsure how you will navigate your business through the proposed 2023 medicare cuts? 

With proven tools, tactics, and strategies, the experts at Breakthrough can help you boost your profit margins, streamline your private practice and get you through 2023 and beyond. 

Schedule a call with our team today and we’ll plan your next step together.

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