Objective. Long Term Acute Care Hospitals (LTACs) are subject to Medicare rules because they accept Medicare and Medicaid patients. In October 2002, Medicare changed the LTAC reimbursement formulas, from a cost basis system to a Prospective Payment System (PPS). This study examines whether the PPS has negatively affected the financial performance of the LTAC hospitals in the period following the reimbursement change (2003-2006), as compared to the period prior to the change (1999-2003), and if so, to what extent. This study will also examine whether the PPS has resulted in a decreased average patient length of stay (LOS) in the LTAC hospitals for the period of 2003-2006 as compared to the prior period of 1999-2003, and if so, to what extent.
Methods. The study group consists of two large LTAC hospital systems, Kindred Healthcare Inc. and Select Specialty Hospitals of Select Medical Corporation. Financial data and operational indicators were reviewed, tabulated and dichotomized into two groups, covering the two periods: 1999-2002 and 2003-2006. The financial data included net annual revenues, net income, revenue per patient per day and profit margins. It was hypothesized that the profit margins for the LTAC hospitals were reduced because of the new PPS. Operational indicators, such as annual admissions, annual patient days, and average LOS were analyzed. It was hypothesized that LOS for the LTAC hospitals would have decreased. Case mix index, defined as the weighted average of patients’ DRGs for each hospital system, was not available to cast more light on the direction of LOS.
Results. This assessment found that the negative financial impacts did not materialize; instead, financial performance improved during the PPS period (2003-2006). The income margin percentage under the PPS increased for Kindred by 24%, and for Select by 77%. Thus, the study’s working hypothesis of reduced income margins for the LTACs under the PPS was contradicted. As to the average patient length of stay, LOS decreased from 34.7 days to 29.4 days for Kindred, and from 30.5 days to 25.3 days for Select. Thus, on the issue of LTAC shorter length of stay, the study’s working hypothesis was confirmed.
Conclusion. Overall, there was no negative financial effect on the LTAC hospitals during the period of 2003-2006 following Medicare implementation of the PPS in October 2002. On the contrary, the income margins improved significantly.
During the same period, LOS decreased following the implementation of the PPS. This was consistent with the LTAC hospitals’ pursuit of financial incentives.