On April 20, 2023, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the release of ownership data for all Medicare-enrolled hospice and home health agencies. This release is consistent with the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS’) goal of increasing transparency and enabling consumers to make informed decisions when considering healthcare facilities.
HHS’ release of ownership data on data.cms.gov will allow consumers and the public to view detailed data elements of Medicare-enrolled facilities, including more than 6,000 hospices and 11,000 home health agencies. Data elements now available to the public include: (1) enrollment information, such as organization name, type, practice location, addresses, national provider identifier and CMS certification number; (2) ownership information; and (3) a numerical ID for each owner that provides a link to each owner’s enrollment file. This release of information marks the first time this data has been publicly available.
In tandem with this information release, HHS will allow the public access to additional hospice and home health agency files, which contain information regarding mergers, acquisitions, consolidations and other types of changes of ownership.
CMS officials responsible for program integrity efforts have stated that this effort will help them understand how certain types of ownership correlate with quality of care. Seventy percent of nursing homes are for-profit and there has been a recent increase in acquisitions by private equity companies and real estate investment trusts. That trend was the impetus for and the target of CMS’ increased efforts for transparency of healthcare provider ownership. The congressional debate on surprise billing brought the role of private equity in healthcare to the attention of Washington policymakers and raised concerns among certain members of Congress and regulators about investors’ impact on quality. Provider organizations do not necessarily oppose the information release or greater transparency, but many bristle at the tone of CMS’ implications on quality.
This most recent release of information comes on the heels of previous government efforts to increase transparency. In April 2022, CMS publicly released Medicare-enrolled hospital and nursing home data concerning mergers, acquisitions, consolidations and changes of ownership. Further, in September 2022, CMS released more detailed ownership information for Medicare-certified skilled nursing facilities. And, again in December 2022, CMS released detailed ownership information regarding Medicare-enrolled hospitals.
CMS plans to release updates on ownership data for hospice and home health agencies on a quarterly basis. The data also will be publicly accessible on data.cms.gov.
In conjunction with CMS’ efforts to increase transparency of ownership information for various healthcare facilities, the agency has been taking other measures to strengthen its Medicare enrollment processes. As detailed in a separate McGuireWoods alert, CMS recently began sending letters to providers and suppliers with multiple enrollments under one tax identification number with inconsistent ownership reported, in an effort to verify current ownership information on file with CMS. These efforts demonstrate that CMS’ focus on compliance with Medicare enrollment requirements likely will continue in the near future, and providers and suppliers should be proactive in maintaining accurate and up-to-date Medicare enrollment filings. Other provider and supplier categories may anticipate similar releases in the future as CMS continues to increase transparency into healthcare providers.
Please contact the authors of this alert with any questions about how the publication of ownership data may impact hospices or home health agencies.