Year-end legislation summary: What medical groups need to know
On Dec. 21, Congress passed massive year-end legislation that includes $1.4 trillion in funding for the federal government in FY 2021, an additional $900 billion in COVID-19 stimulus funds, and various other provisions that impact medical groups. President Trump signed the bill into law on Dec. 27.
In the coming weeks, MGMA expects the Administration will issue guidance on certain provisions of the new law. This guidance is expected to provide more detail into how these provisions will be implemented and the impact on medical groups. As this information becomes available, MGMA will keep medical group practices updated and will be revising resources, such as those published in MGMA’s COVID-19 Recovery Center.
Key provisions of the law include the following:
- Increases Medicare payments across the board for CY 2021 from what was finalized in the 2021 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) by adding $3 billion into the PFS and delaying payment of HCPCS add-on code G2211 for three years. MGMA expects that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will release information regarding the updated payments for 2021 once it factors in the 3.75% increase to the PFS and calculates the impact of delaying G2211. We expect CMS to communicate the new conversion factor and new payment rates to local Medicare Administrative Contractors, who will update their schedules accordingly. These payment increases follow significant MGMA advocacy and will serve to offset cuts previously slated for Jan. 1, 2021.
- Temporarily suspends the 2% Medicare sequester from Jan. 1 through March 31, 2021. MGMA advocated for an extension of the current moratorium on Medicare sequestration authorized in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
- Extends the work geographic index floor under the Medicare program through Dec. 31, 2023.
- Expands access to mental health services furnished through telehealth past the expiration of the COVID-19 public health emergency. MGMA expects to see further guidance from CMS on this policy change.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
- Extends and modifies the PPP to provide further flexibilities, such as:
- A simplified loan forgiveness application process for loans under $150,000;
- Clarification that loan recipients may deduct forgiven PPP loans;
- The creation of a “PPP second draw” loan for businesses that meet certain criteria;
- The allowance of additional eligible and forgivable covered expenses;
- The ability for certain 501(c)(6) organizations to qualify for a PPP loan; and
- The ability to elect a covered period ending between 8 and 24 weeks after loan origination.
- MGMA expects the U.S. Department of the Treasury to issue and update guidance to reflect the modifications made to the PPP in the coming days.
Provider Relief Fund (PRF)
- Adds $3 billion to the $175 billion PRF and clarifies how recipients can use funds to cover “lost revenue” attributable to COVID-19. The new law allows providers to calculate lost revenues using a budgeted-to-actual revenue comparison, rather than actual year-over-year comparisons as currently required by Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) guidance.
- This change, as well as the addition of funds, is welcome news; however, it remains to be seen how HHS will implement new clarification. Group practices should continue to monitor the PRF website for updates based on the new legislation in the coming days or weeks.
FFCRA paid sick and family leave
- Extends the refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave enacted in the Families First Coronavirus Reponses Act (FFCRA) through March 31, 2021, so employers may choose to continue offering paid leave to their employees. It does not, however, require employers to extend FFCRA paid sick and family leave past Dec. 31, 2020.
- Provides patient protections from out-of-network medical bills. Nonparticipating providers at emergency facilities (or a participating provider at a nonparticipating emergency facility) will not be permitted to bill a patient beyond the allowed cost-sharing amount. Instead, the patient’s health plan will make an initial payment directly to the provider or issue a notice of denial. If the provider or plan is not satisfied with the payment, either party may initiate an Independent Dispute Resolution (IDR) process, which is overseen by a third party entity who has no affiliation with the provider or payer. Each party then submits a payment offer for consideration by the IDR entity, who selects one prevailing offer as the final payment amount.
- This provision is set to go into effect in 2022 and will involve rulemaking from the Administration to provide certain implementation details. Following MGMA advocacy, at the last minute lawmakers included improvements to the IDR process.
Alternative Payment Models (APMs)
- Freezes the 2020 qualifying participant thresholds required to achieve APM benefits, such as the 5% lump sum bonus. These thresholds were set to increase in 2021 to unrealistic levels, however pursuant to this legislation, will remain at the 2020 thresholds (at least 50% of Medicare Part B payments or at least 35% of Medicare patients through an advanced APM entity) through 2023. MGMA strongly supported maintaining 2020 thresholds in 2021 and beyond to allow more group practices to realize the benefits of APM participation.