To IPA or NOT To IPA: That Is an Important Question

By Carol Maher, RN-BC, RAC-MTA, RAC-MT, RAC-CTA, RAC-CT, CPC - May 05, 2020

Healthcare professionals were relieved when CMS agreed to make the Interim Payment Assessment (IPA) optional instead of a requirement. This meant that skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) could decide when or if they would complete these payment assessments. CMS anticipated that SNFs would perform IPAs during each Medicare Part A stay both to improve Medicare payment during the stays and to monitor patients’ clinical status. However, data shows that few IPAs are being completed.

 

One likely reason why: the complexity of the new Patient-Driven Payment Model (PDPM) makes it difficult to know when an MDS would improve the final payment. John Kane, CMS’s SNF Payment Team Lead, stated during one of CMS’s train-the-trainer sessions that there could be as many as 1,900 possible payment combinations per PPS MDS.

 

So how can you know whether an IPA would improve the Medicare payment? First, let’s consider the impact of CMS’s original plan to require the IPAs. CMS proposed that IPAs would be completed when there was a change in one of the first-tier classification criteria in any of the proposed payment components. For example, if the resident had been classified into the Major Joint Replacement category for the PT/OT component and their primary diagnosis changed to Medical Management, the IPA would have been required. Likewise, when a resident’s Nursing component category changed from Extensive Services to Special Care Low, an IPA would have been required. We are grateful that assessments are not mandatory in these circumstances, but they provide a useful starting point for understanding when an IPA could be financially beneficial.

 

In the SNF PPS Final Rule for FY 2020, CMS included the following table showing the FY 2020 federal unadjusted urban base rates for each of the six PDPM payment components: