In a report to Congress this week, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) offered several key recommendations, including reducing payments for home healthcare agencies in 2022 and extending telehealth for up to two years after the end of the COVID-19 public health emergency. 

The commission said the coronavirus pandemic had “catastrophic consequences” for many Medicare beneficiaries in 2020 and affected the delivery of healthcare for all Americans. MedPac wrote that determining the full impact of the pandemic on beneficiaries and providers will require further analysis.

Per earlier draft recommendations, MedPAC is recommending reduced payments of 5% for home health care agencies and no payment increase for hospice services in 2022. The commission also advised reducing the aggregate cap on hospice by 20%.

Telehealth expansion

In addition, as part of its report, MedPac recommended temporarily expanding telehealth for up to two years after the COVID-19 public health emergency is over. The commission said the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services needs more time to assess the impact on beneficiary access to care, quality of care and program spending.

During the pandemic, Congress and CMS expanded Medicare’s coverage and payment for telehealth, giving providers greater flexibility in delivering care virtually in an effort to keep patients safe from the coronavirus.

Hospice savings 

In another aspect of the report, MedPAC said that expanding Medicare’s hospital post-acute care transfer to hospice through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 saved Medicare roughly $382 million over five quarters, beginning in 2019, “without any discernible in Medicare FFS beneficiaries’ timely access to hospice care.”

The recommendations are part of MedPac’s “Report to the Congress: Medicare Payment Policy,” which is mandated by the Balanced Budget Act of 2018.