Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
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To assist readers in referencing sections contained in this preamble, we are providing a table of contents. Some of the issues discussed in this preamble affect the payment policies, but do not require changes to the regulations in the
In addition, because of the many organizations and terms to which we refer by acronym in this final rule with comment period, we are listing these acronyms and their corresponding terms in alphabetical order below:
Since January 1, 1992, Medicare has paid for physicians' services under section 1848 of the Social Security Act (the Act), “Payment for Physicians' Services.” The Act requires that payments under the physician fee schedule (PFS) be based on national uniform relative value units (RVUs) based on the relative resources used in furnishing a service. Section 1848(c) of the Act requires that national RVUs be established for physician work, practice expense (PE), and malpractice expense. Before the establishment of the resource-based relative value system, Medicare payment for physicians' services was based on reasonable charges.
The concepts and methodology underlying the PFS were enacted as part of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (OBRA) of 1989 (Pub. L. 101-239), and OBRA 1990, (Pub. L. 101-508). The final rule, published on November 25, 1991 (56 FR 59502), set forth the fee schedule for payment for physicians' services beginning January 1, 1992. Initially, only the physician work RVUs were resource-based, and the PE and malpractice RVUs were based on average allowable charges.
The physician work RVUs established for the implementation of the fee schedule in January 1992 were developed with extensive input from the physician community. A research team at the Harvard School of Public Health developed the original physician work RVUs for most codes in a cooperative agreement with the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). In constructing the code-specific vignettes for the original physician work RVUs, Harvard worked with panels of experts, both inside and outside the Federal government, and obtained input from numerous physician specialty groups.
Section 1848(b)(2)(B) of the Act specifies that the RVUs for anesthesia services are based on RVUs from a uniform relative value guide, with appropriate adjustment of the conversion factor (CF), in a manner to assure that fee schedule amounts for anesthesia services are consistent with those for other services of comparable value. We established a separate CF for anesthesia services, and we continue to utilize time units as a factor in determining payment for these services. As a result, there is a separate payment methodology for anesthesia services.
We establish physician work RVUs for new and revised codes based on our review of recommendations received from the American Medical Association's (AMA) Specialty Society Relative Value Update Committee (RUC).
Section 121 of the Social Security Act Amendments of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-432), enacted on October 31, 1994, amended section 1848(c)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act and required us to develop resource-based PE RVUs for each physician's service beginning in 1998. We were to consider general categories of expenses (such as office rent and wages of personnel, but excluding malpractice expenses) comprising PEs.
Section 4505(a) of the Balanced Budget Act of 1997 (BBA) (Pub. L. 105-33), amended section 1848(c)(2)(C)(ii) of the Act to delay implementation of the resource-based PE RVU system until January 1, 1999. In addition, section 4505(b) of the BBA provided for a 4-year transition period from charge-based PE RVUs to resource-based RVUs.
We established the resource-based PE RVUs for each physicians' service in a final rule, published November 2, 1998 (63 FR 58814), effective for services furnished in 1999. Based on the requirement to transition to a resource-based system for PE over a 4-year period, resource-based PE RVUs did not become fully effective until 2002.
This resource-based system was based on two significant sources of actual PE data: The Clinical Practice Expert Panel (CPEP) data; and the AMA's Socioeconomic Monitoring System (SMS) data. The CPEP data were collected from panels of physicians, practice administrators, and nonphysicians (for example, registered nurses (RNs)) nominated by physician specialty societies and other groups. The CPEP panels identified the direct inputs required for each physician's service in both the office setting and out-of-office setting. We have since refined and revised these inputs based on recommendations from the RUC. The AMA's SMS data provided aggregate
Separate PE RVUs are established for procedures that can be performed in both a nonfacility setting, such as a physician's office, and a facility setting, such as a hospital outpatient department. The difference between the facility and nonfacility RVUs reflects the fact that a facility typically receives separate payment from Medicare for its costs of providing the service, apart from payment under the PFS. The nonfacility RVUs reflect all of the direct and indirect PEs of providing a particular service.
Section 212 of the Balanced Budget Refinement Act of 1999 (BBRA) (Pub. L. 106-113) directed the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the Secretary) to establish a process under which we accept and use, to the maximum extent practicable and consistent with sound data practices, data collected or developed by entities and organizations to supplement the data we normally collect in determining the PE component. On May 3, 2000, we published the interim final rule (65 FR 25664) that set forth the criteria for the submission of these supplemental PE survey data. The criteria were modified in response to comments received, and published in the
In the Calendar Year (CY) 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69624), we revised the methodology for calculating PE RVUs beginning in CY 2007 and provided for a 4-year transition for the new PE RVUs under this new methodology.
Section 4505(f) of the BBA amended section 1848(c) of the Act requiring us to implement resource-based malpractice (MP) RVUs for services furnished on or after 2000. The resource-based MP RVUs were implemented in the PFS final rule published November 2, 1999 (64 FR 59380). The MP RVUs were based on malpractice insurance premium data collected from commercial and physician-owned insurers from all the States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico.
Section 1848(c)(2)(B)(i) of the Act requires that we review all RVUs no less often than every 5 years. The first 5-Year Review of the physician work RVUs was published on November 22, 1996 (61 FR 59489) and was effective in 1997. The second 5-Year Review was published in the CY 2002 PFS final rule with comment period (66 FR 55246) and was effective in 2002. The third 5-Year Review of physician work RVUs was published in the CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69624) and was effective on January 1, 2007. (
In 1999, the AMA's RUC established the Practice Expense Advisory Committee (PEAC) for the purpose of refining the direct PE inputs. Through March 2004, the PEAC provided recommendations to CMS for over 7,600 codes (all but a few hundred of the codes currently listed in the AMA's Current Procedural Terminology (CPT) codes). As part of the CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69624), we implemented a new methodology for determining resource-based PE RVUs and are transitioning this over a 4-year period. (
In the CY 2005 PFS final rule with comment period (69 FR 66236), we implemented the first 5-Year Review of the MP RVUs (69 FR 66263). (
Section 1848(c)(2)(B)(ii)(II) of the Act provides that adjustments in RVUs for a year may not cause total PFS payments to differ by more than $20 million from what they would have been if the adjustments were not made. In accordance with section 1848(c)(2)(B)(ii)(II) of the Act, if adjustments to RVUs cause expenditures to change by more than $20 million, we make adjustments to ensure that expenditures do not increase or decrease by more than $20 million.
As explained in the CY 2009 PFS final rule with comment period (73 FR 69730), as required by section 133(b) of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA) (Pub. L. 110-275), the separate budget neutrality (BN) adjustor resulting from the third 5-Year Review of physician work RVUs is being applied to the CF beginning with CY 2009 rather than the work RVUs.
To calculate the payment for every physicians' service, the components of the fee schedule (physician work, PE, and MP RVUs) are adjusted by a geographic practice cost index (GPCI). The GPCIs reflect the relative costs of physician work, PE, and malpractice expense in an area compared to the national average costs for each component.
RVUs are converted to dollar amounts through the application of a CF, which is calculated by CMS' Office of the Actuary (OACT).
The formula for calculating the Medicare fee schedule payment amount for a given service and fee schedule area can be expressed as:
The CY 2009 PFS final rule with comment period (73 FR 69726) implemented changes to the PFS and other Medicare Part B payment policies finalized the CY 2008 interim RVUs and implemented interim RVUs for new and revised codes for CY 2009 to ensure that our payment systems are updated to reflect changes in medical practice and the relative value of services.
The CY 2009 PFS final rule with comment period also addressed other policies, as well as certain provisions of the MIPPA.
As required by the statute, and based on section 131 of the MIPPA, the CY 2009 PFS final rule with comment period also announced that the PFS update is 1.1 percent for CY 2009, the initial estimate for the sustainable growth rate for CY 2009 is 7.4 percent, and the conversion factor (CF) for CY 2009 is $36.0666.
Practice expense (PE) is the portion of the resources used in furnishing the service that reflects the general categories of physician and practitioner expenses, such as office rent and personnel wages but excluding malpractice expenses, as specified in section 1848(c)(1)(B) of the Act.
Section 121 of the Social Security Amendments of 1994 (Pub. L. 103-432), enacted on October 31, 1994, required CMS to develop a methodology for a resource-based system for determining
The initial implementation of resource-based PE RVUs was delayed from January 1, 1998, until January 1, 1999, by section 4505(a) of the BBA. In addition, section 4505(b) of the BBA required that the new payment methodology be phased in over 4 years, effective for services furnished in CY 1999, and fully effective in CY 2002. The first step toward implementation of the statute was to adjust the PE values for certain services for CY 1998. Section 4505(d) of the BBA required that, in developing the resource-based PE RVUs, the Secretary must—
• Use, to the maximum extent possible, generally-accepted cost accounting principles that recognize all staff, equipment, supplies, and expenses, not solely those that can be linked to specific procedures and actual data on equipment utilization.
• Develop a refinement method to be used during the transition.
• Consider, in the course of notice and comment rulemaking, impact projections that compare new proposed payment amounts to data on actual physician PE.
In CY 1999, we began the 4-year transition to resource-based PE RVUs utilizing a “top-down” methodology whereby we allocated aggregate specialty-specific practice costs to individual procedures. The specialty-specific PEs were derived from the American Medical Association's (AMA's) Socioeconomic Monitoring Survey (SMS). In addition, under section 212 of the BBRA, we established a process extending through March 2005 to supplement the SMS data with data submitted by a specialty. The aggregate PEs for a given specialty were then allocated to the services furnished by that specialty on the basis of the direct input data (that is, the staff time, equipment, and supplies) and work RVUs assigned to each CPT code.
For CY 2007, we implemented a new methodology for calculating PE RVUs. Under this new methodology, we use the same data sources for calculating PE, but instead of using the “top-down” approach to calculate the direct PE RVUs, under which the aggregate direct and indirect costs for each specialty are allocated to each individual service, we now utilize a “bottom-up” approach to calculate the direct costs. Under the “bottom up” approach, we determine the direct PE by adding the costs of the resources (that is, the clinical staff, equipment, and supplies) typically required to provide each service. The costs of the resources are calculated using the refined direct PE inputs assigned to each CPT code in our PE database, which are based on our review of recommendations received from the AMA's Relative Value Update Committee (RUC). For a more detailed explanation of the PE methodology,
In section II.A.1 of this proposed rule, we discuss the current methodology used for calculating PE. In section II.A.2. of this proposed rule, which contains PE proposals for CY 2010, we are proposing to use data from the AMA Physician Practice Information Survey (PPIS) in place of the AMA's SMS survey data and supplemental survey data that is currently used in the PE methodology.
The AMA's SMS survey data and supplemental survey data from the specialties of cardiothoracic surgery, vascular surgery, physical and occupational therapy, independent laboratories, allergy/immunology, cardiology, dermatology, gastroenterology, radiology, independent diagnostic testing facilities (IDTFs), radiation oncology, and urology are used to develop the PE per hour (PE/HR) for each specialty. For those specialties for which we do not have PE/HR, the appropriate PE/HR is obtained from a crosswalk to a similar specialty.
The AMA developed the SMS survey in 1981 and discontinued it in 1999. Beginning in 2002, we incorporated the 1999 SMS survey data into our calculation of the PE RVUs, using a 5-year average of SMS survey data. (
• Clinical payroll expenses, which are payroll expenses (including fringe benefits) for nonphysician clinical personnel.
• Administrative payroll expenses, which are payroll expenses (including fringe benefits) for nonphysician personnel involved in administrative, secretarial, or clerical activities.
• Office expenses, which include expenses for rent, mortgage interest, depreciation on medical buildings, utilities, and telephones.
• Medical material and supply expenses, which include expenses for drugs, x-ray films, and disposable medical products.
• Medical equipment expenses, which include depreciation, leases, and rent of medical equipment used in the diagnosis or treatment of patients.
• All other expenses, which include expenses for legal services, accounting, office management, professional association memberships, and any professional expenses not previously mentioned in this section.
In accordance with section 212 of the BBRA, we established a process to supplement the SMS data for a specialty with data collected by entities and organizations other than the AMA (that is, those entities and organizations representing the specialty itself). (See the Criteria for Submitting Supplemental Practice Expense Survey Data interim final rule with comment period (65 FR 25664).) Originally, the deadline to submit supplementary survey data was through August 1, 2001. In the CY 2002 PFS final rule (66 FR 55246), the deadline was extended through August 1, 2003. To ensure maximum opportunity for specialties to submit supplementary survey data, we extended the deadline to submit surveys until March 1, 2005 in the Revisions to Payment Policies Under the Physician Fee Schedule for CY 2004 final rule with comment period (68 FR 63196) (hereinafter referred to as CY 2004 PFS final rule with comment period).
The direct cost data for individual services were originally developed by the Clinical Practice Expert Panels (CPEP). The CPEP data include the supplies, equipment, and staff times specific to each procedure. The CPEPs consisted of panels of physicians, practice administrators, and nonphysicians (for example, RNs) who were nominated by physician specialty societies and other groups. There were 15 CPEPs consisting of 180 members from more than 61 specialties and subspecialties. Approximately 50 percent of the panelists were physicians.
The CPEPs identified specific inputs involved in each physician's service provided in an office or facility setting.
The aggregate level specialty-specific PEs are derived from the AMA's SMS survey and supplementary survey data. To establish PE RVUs for specific services, it is necessary to establish the direct and indirect PE associated with each service.
• We apply a specialty-specific indirect percentage factor to the direct expenses to recognize the varying proportion that indirect costs represent of total costs by specialty. For a given service, the specific indirect percentage factor to apply to the direct costs for the purpose of the indirect allocation is calculated as the weighted average of the ratio of the indirect to direct costs (based on the survey data) for the specialties that furnish the service. For example, if a service is furnished by a single specialty with indirect PEs that were 75 percent of total PEs, the indirect percentage factor to apply to the direct costs for the purposes of the indirect allocation would be (0.75/0.25) = 3.0. The indirect percentage factor is then applied to the service level adjusted indirect PE allocators.
• We use the specialty-specific PE/HR from the SMS survey data, as well as the supplemental surveys for cardiothoracic surgery, vascular surgery, physical and occupational therapy, independent laboratories, allergy/immunology, cardiology, dermatology, radiology, gastroenterology, IDTFs, radiation oncology, and urology. (
• When the clinical labor portion of the direct PE RVU is greater than the physician work RVU for a particular service, the indirect costs are allocated based upon the direct costs and the clinical labor costs. For example, if a service has no physician work and 1.10 direct PE RVUs, and the clinical labor portion of the direct PE RVUs is 0.65 RVUs, we would use the 1.10 direct PE RVUs and the 0.65 clinical labor portions of the direct PE RVUs to allocate the indirect PE for that service.
Procedures that can be furnished in a physician's office, as well as in a hospital or facility setting have two PE RVUs: Facility and nonfacility. The nonfacility setting includes physicians' offices, patients' homes, freestanding imaging centers, and independent pathology labs. Facility settings include hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers (ASCs), and skilled nursing facilities (SNFs). The methodology for calculating PE RVUs is the same for both facility and nonfacility RVUs, but is applied independently to yield two separate PE RVUs. Because the PEs for services provided in a facility setting are generally included in the payment to the facility (rather than the payment to the physician under the PFS), the PE RVUs are generally lower for services provided in the facility setting.
Diagnostic services are generally comprised of two components: A professional component (PC) and a technical component (TC), both of which may be performed independently or by different providers. When services have TCs, PCs, and global components that can be billed separately, the payment for the global component equals the sum of the payment for the TC and PC. This is a result of using a weighted average of the ratio of indirect to direct costs across all the specialties that furnish the global components, TCs, and PCs; that is, we apply the same weighted average indirect percentage factor to allocate indirect expenses to the global components, PCs, and TCs for a service. (The direct PE RVUs for the TC and PC sum to the global under the bottom-up methodology.)
As discussed in the CY 2007 PFS final rule with comment period (71 FR 69674), the change to the PE methodology was implemented over a 4-year period. In CY 2010, the transition period is concluded and PE RVUs will be calculated based entirely on the current methodology.
The following is a description of the PE RVU methodology.
First, we create a setup file for the PE methodology. The setup file contains the direct cost inputs, the utilization for each procedure code at the specialty and facility/nonfacility place of service level, and the specialty-specific survey PE per physician hour data.
For most services the indirect allocator is:
There are two situations where this formula is modified:
• If the service is a global service (that is, a service with global, professional, and technical components), then the indirect allocator is:
• If the clinical labor PE RVU exceeds the work RVU (and the service is not a global service), then the indirect allocator is:
For global services, the indirect allocator is based on both the work RVU and the clinical labor PE RVU. We do this to recognize that, for the professional service, indirect PEs will be allocated using the work RVUs, and for the TC service, indirect PEs will be allocated using the direct PE RVU and the clinical labor PE RVU. This also allows the global component RVUs to equal the sum of the PC and TC RVUs.
For presentation purposes in the examples in the Table 1, the formulas were divided into two parts for each service. The first part does not vary by service and is
For services with TCs and PCs, we calculate the indirect practice cost index across the global components, PCs, and TCs. Under this method, the indirect practice cost index for a given service (for example, echocardiogram) does not vary by the PC, TC and global component.
The equipment cost per minute is calculated as:
To illustrate the PE calculation, in Table 1 we have used the conversion factor (CF) of $36.0666 which is the CF effective January 1, 2009 as published in CY 2009 PFS final rule with comment period.