CMS Final Decision Memo for Patients with Mitral Valve Regurgitation
NCD 20.33, from TMVR to TEER
On January 19, 2021, CMS at long last published a Final Decision Memo (CAG-00438R) for Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVR). The proposed decision memo was a departure from the current TMVR National Coverage Determination (NCD) 20.33. Similarly, the final decision memo is a significant departure from what was proposed.
Background: From TMVR to TEER
At the request of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), the American College of Cardiology (ACC), the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS), and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography & Interventions (SCAI), CMS opened a National Coverage Analysis (NCA) Tracking Sheet for Transcatheter Mitral Valve Repair (TMVR) (CAG-00438R). The expected release of a Proposed Decision Memo was to have been February 14, 2020.
National Coverage Analysis Issue
TMVR is used in the treatment of mitral regurgitation (MR). There are two types of MR.
- Primary (degenerative) DMR results from structural failure of mitral valve, and
- Secondary (functional) FMR results from left ventricular (LV) dysfunction with a largely preserved mitral valve.
NCD 20.33 established coverage for the treatment of significant symptomatic Primary MR. CMS’ national tracking analysis focused on TMVR for the treatment of significant symptomatic Secondary MR.
June 30, 2020 Proposed Decision Memo for TMVR (CAG-00438R)
In review, what was proposed?
- A document title change from TMVR to Transcatheter Edge-to-Edge Repair (TEER) for mitral regurgitation.
- A covered indication away from coverage for DMR to treatment for FMR.
- A proposal to remove the Coverage with Evidence Development (CED) requirement in NCD 20.33.
- A patient continuing to be symptomatic despite stable doses of maximally tolerated guideline-directed medical therapy (GDMT) and also requiring a patient to meet several new approved FDA criteria (i.e. LVED 20% to 50%, and New York Heart Association (NYHA) Class II, III, or Iva (ambulatory)).
- Guideline Directed Medical Treatment (GDMT) “The specialty societies publish detailed guidelines for the diagnosis and management of heart failure. The most recent full guideline was published in 2013, with a focused update in 2016. In addition to lifestyle changes, cornerstones of pharmacologic treatment of systolic heart failure include angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB), angiotensin receptor-neprilysin inhibitors (ARNI), beta-blockers, mineralocorticoid antagonists (MRA), and diuretics. For eligible patients, implantable cardiac defibrillators (ICD) can improve survival, while cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) can improve symptoms, reduce MR, reduce hospitalizations, and increase survival.”
- A detailed list of members to be included in the Heart Team that a patient is to be under the care of during the perioperative period.
- In NCD 20.33 there are two sets of qualifications for appropriate volume requirements (qualifications to begin a mitral valve TEER program and qualifications for mitral valve TEER experience). CMS proposed “to modify this requirement consistent with the same requirement for the interventional cardiologist as set forth in the June 2019 TAVR NCD Decision Memo. While clinically appropriate, this modification also establishes consistency across valve program areas.”
- CMS supporting a Shared Decision Making (SDM) discussion between the physician and the patient. At the same time, acknowledging that there is no fully developed tool for SDM for TEER at this time.
- Optimal Patient Selection for TEER: CMS acknowledged in the proposed decision memo that there are limitations in the trial/study evidence available to assist the heart team in optimal patient selection for TEER. They note in the proposed Decision Memo that they will carefully monitor treated patients for adherence to the criteria and will assess patient outcomes over the next four years through evidence published in the peer reviewed literature. At that time, contingent upon real-world demonstration of outcomes consistent with those achieved in the Cardiovascular Outcomes Assessment of the MitraClip Percutaneous Therapy for Heart Failure Patients with Functional Mitral Regurgitation (The COAPT Trial), they will consider modifying criteria.
- Face-to-Face Examination during COVID-19 Public Health Emergency (PHE): Per the Proposed Decision Memo, “In the interim final rule with comment period [CMS-1744-IFC], CMS finalized that to the extent an NCD or LCD would otherwise require a face-to-face or in-person encounter for evaluations, assessments, certifications or other implied face-to-face services those requirements would not apply during the public health emergency (PHE) for the COVID-19 pandemic. This would include the proposed face-to-face examination by the heart team cardiac surgeon and interventional cardiologist.”
- A more extensive list of nationally non-covered indications for this procedure than the current NCD.
January 19, 2021 Final Decision Memo for TEER
What was finalized?
- A document title change from TMVR to Transcatheter Edge-to-Edge Repair (TEER) for mitral regurgitation.
- A covered indication for DMR and FMR.
- Continued coverage of this procedure under Coverage with Evidence Development (CED).
- Coverage for a symptomatic moderate-to-severe or severe functional MR (FMR) patient when the patient remains symptomatic despite stable doses of maximally tolerated guideline-directed medical therapy (GDMT) plus cardiac resynchronization therapy if applicable, or treatment for significant symptomatic degenerative MR (DMR) when furnished according to an FDA-approved indication.
- A heart team to include a cardiac surgeon, interventional cardiologist, interventional echocardiographer (cardiologist or anesthesiologist), heart failure cardiologist, and other providers from physician groups as well as advanced patient populations, nurses, research personnel and administration.
- One set of appropriate volume requirements to begin and maintain a mitral valve TEER program.
- CMS continuing to support a Shared Decision Making (SDM) discussion between the physician and the patient.
- Face-to-Face Exam requirements dependent on whether treatment is for FMR or DMR.
- Two indications for CMS non-covering this procedure
- For patients in whom existing co-morbidities would preclude the expected benefit from a mitral valve TEER procedure, and
- In patients with untreated severe aortic stenosis.
Final Decision Memo: CMS’ Response to Comments
CMS received 296 comments from 292 separate commenters during the second comment period. They organized comments and their responses into similar topic sections. I have found that taking the time to read comments from the health care community and CMS responses can provide insight into the why and how coverage determinations change or don’t change. Following are key highlights from several of the section types in the final decision memo:
Timeline for Decision
In response to a commenters concern with the time elapsed between the FDA’s approval for TEER in functional mitral regurgitation patients and the finalized NCD, CMS acknowledged “the delayed publication of this final NCD. CMS always aims to expeditiously complete rigorous national coverage analyses (NCAs) within statutory timeframes. 2020 was particularly challenging due to the COVID public health emergency.”
NCD Name Change and Scope
“Comment: One commenter recommended that CMS more clearly define technical features of therapies and their anatomical placement that will or will not fall within the parameters of the NCD. Another commenter requested that TEER be clearly defined, and if it does not include the CARILLON system, a more inclusive term be used that does.
Response: This NCD addresses transcatheter edge-to-edge repair (TEER) of the mitral valve, which includes transcatheter devices that approximate the mitral leaflet edges by grasping the anterior and posterior mitral valve leaflets in a fashion analogous to a surgical Alfieri repair. It does not include other potential transcatheter approaches, for example those that modify or supplement the mitral valve annulus or the chordal apparatus. This NCD does not address transcatheter mitral valve replacement.”
Coverage with Evidence Development
Commenters overwhelmingly supported the application of coverage with evidence development (CED) for TEER and provided detailed reasons for their support.
“Response: CMS appreciates these comments and has revised this NCD to cover TEER under CED for both DMR and FMR. After careful review of the evidence, and consideration of the numerous public comments supportive of CED, CMS agrees with the consensus of the experts, including all of the professional societies and organizations that commented. There are important evidence gaps that remain for both DMR and FMR and CED is the best path to address those. It also permits more robust coverage than what we proposed. CMS also acknowledges that while DMR and FMR are important concepts, an important proportion of patients may have mixed degenerative and functional MR. Furthermore, we believe that CED for both DMR and FMR better preserves the reliability of data submitted through registries and avoids potential reporting bias.”
“Comment: Nine commenters disagreed with requiring the local heart team to determine that mitral valve surgery will not be offered as a treatment option because mitral valve surgery is not a treatment option for most FMR patients. One commenter further asserted that this requirement unfairly favors surgical mitral valve replacement / repair (which has a lower level of evidence) over TEER (which has a higher level of evidence).
Response: CMS appreciates these comments. The COAPT study where benefit was demonstrated for FMR required that a cardiac surgeon determine that mitral valve surgery would not be offered as a treatment option. However, CMS will finalize the TEER NCD under CED to the FDA labelling. The CED paradigm allows coverage where evidence is promising but does not yet fully assess the appropriateness of TEER, which is a key element of meeting the reasonable and necessary standard, by conditioning coverage on further evidence development. Consequently, CMS will remove the requirement that a cardiac surgeon examine the patient and determine that they are ineligible for mitral valve surgery.”
CMS Response to comments: “CMS appreciates these comments. The COAPT study that demonstrated benefit for FMR included a broad range of specific inclusion and exclusion criteria. By contrast, the MITRA-FR study, where inclusion and exclusion criteria were less stringent, did not demonstrate that TEER confers a benefit to patients with moderate to severe or severe FMR. CMS is finalizing the TEER NCD with CED to the FDA labelling.
Further evidence is needed to assess why the COAPT and MITRA-FR studies reached markedly different conclusions about the benefits of TEER in FMR. The CED paradigm allows coverage where evidence is promising but does not yet fully assess the appropriateness of TEER, which is a key element of meeting the reasonable and necessary standard, by conditioning coverage on further evidence development. In the context of CED, CMS will cover TEER to the FDA labelling. However, the presence of severe aortic stenosis may worsen heart failure symptoms and may substantially increase MR severity.58-60 Therefore, we are clarifying that TEER is non-covered in patients with untreated severe aortic stenosis because intervention to the mitral valve may be unnecessary after the aortic stenosis is addressed.”
CMS received several commenters regarding who should evaluate a patient’s suitability for this procedure when the patient has functional mitral regurgitation.
“Response: CMS appreciates these comments. CMS has removed the requirement that a cardiac surgeon examine FMR patients to determine that they are ineligible for mitral valve surgery. CMS agrees that for FMR, cardiac surgery is not generally the standard of care and requiring this consultation would present an undue burden; instead, optimization of GDMT with cardiac resynchronization therapy, if appropriate, is essential. Therefore, for FMR, CMS is requiring that a cardiologist experienced in treating patients with advanced heart failure must independently examine the patient face-to-face. CMS recognizes that cardiologists may have extensive experience with advanced heart failure without being board eligible/board certified and that a board eligible/board certified Advanced Heart Failure/Transplant cardiologist is not available in some communities. Nonetheless, whenever possible, the heart failure cardiologist should be board certified in Advanced Heart Failure/Transplant. For DMR, CMS continues to require that a cardiac surgeon independently examine the patient face-to-face because surgery is generally the standard of care. CMS supports the concept of shared decision-making for all TEER patients. Regarding the use of telehealth, CMS notes that this final NCD does not change telehealth rules and any services eligible to be furnished via telehealth under existing telehealth rules are allowable under this policy.”
CMS provided the following responses to comments about the composition of the heart team:
“Response: CMS believes the heart team must be comprised of multiple practitioners with the expertise to optimally treat patients with DMR and FMR. CMS has determined that the heart team must be comprised of an interventional cardiologist, a cardiac surgeon, an interventional echocardiographer, a heart failure cardiologist with experience treating patients with advanced heart failure (for FMR patients only) and other providers from other specialty areas as appropriate, along with advanced patient practitioners, nurses, research personnel, and administrators.”
“Response: This final NCD addresses both DMR and FMR and does not include a requirement for the cardiac surgeon to examine the patient face-to-face for FMR. However, the final NCD does require the cardiac surgeon to examine DMR patients face-to-face. CMS agrees that it is important to have the cardiac surgeon perspective on the heart team.”
“Response: CMS has finalized the requirement for a cardiologist experienced in treating patients with advanced heart failure (the heart failure cardiologist) be included on the heart team specifically for patients with FMR. For FMR, discrepancies in the outcomes achieved in the COAPT and MITRA-FR studies that included patients with ostensibly similar patient characteristics demonstrates clearly the critical role of patient selection and of reaching maximally tolerated GDMT prior to pursuing TEER. CMS agrees with specialty societies and the FDA that optimization of GDMT is essential for achieving good patient outcomes, and therefore, CMS is requiring that the heart team heart failure cardiologist experienced in treating patients with advanced heart failure evaluate TEER candidates with FMR. There is no requirement that patients with DMR be evaluated by the heart team heart failure cardiologist. Because this NCD represents an expansion of coverage to FMR, CMS disagrees that a requirement for the heart team heart failure cardiologist to appropriately evaluate FMR patients for maximal GDMT will shut down TEER programs.”
“Response: CMS agrees that the interventional echocardiographer is an important member of the heart team and is critical during TEER procedures. We have more completely specified the role of the interventional echocardiographer in TEER procedures in the final NCD.”
General Volume Requirements
One “commenter asserted that there should be a common standard to begin or maintain a TEER program and that it should not change from the existing TMVR NCD.”
“Response: We agree. Based on the comments and finalizing this decision as CED, we have finalized a common standard for all TEER programs under this NCD. Further, we have reduced the cardiac surgical volume for hospitals to ≥ 20 per year which is half of what we proposed. These final volume requirements reflect elements of the Expert Consensus document, our review of currently available clinical evidence, and our efforts to align with the TAVR NCD volume requirements for consistency across valve programs that perform both TEER and TAVR.
We note that evidence supports an association between procedural volumes and improved outcomes for both cardiac surgery and TEER, and we agree with the Expert Consensus document that volume requirements are appropriate to ensure good outcomes. We are finalizing this decision to include CED which requires submission of data to a qualified registry. We believe that these data will assist hospitals in assessing and improving program quality which will be valuable in closely monitoring their TEER programs and ensuring good health outcomes for Medicare patients.”
“Response: CMS supports the provision of high quality care for our beneficiaries. Evidence supports an association between procedural volumes and improved outcomes for both cardiac surgery and TEER, and CMS agrees with the Expert Consensus document that volume requirements are appropriate. Because TEER coverage under CED will require submission of data to a qualified registry, CMS believes that these data will assist hospitals in assessing and improving program quality. Therefore, CMS is finalizing lower hospital cardiac surgery volume requirements than proposed and applying this requirement for both new and existing programs. CMS agrees that ensuring patients have appropriate access to TEER is important but also recognizes that having access includes ensuring that patients have good quality care. We believe the reduced hospital surgical volume requirements and other requirements set forth in this final NCD are important to ensure Medicare beneficiaries have access to TEER in programs that deliver high quality care and achieve optimal health outcomes. The final NCD requirements reflect our intent to strike a balance between ensuring hospitals have the experience and capabilities to handle complex structural heart disease cases with an evolving evidence base while also ensuring Medicare beneficiaries have access to needed treatment.”
Sunset of TEER CED NCD
“Based on public comments, CMS is aware that stakeholders desire clarity on how long CED will be required for TEER. CMS will consider published, peer-reviewed evidence periodically, following the effective date of this NCD and reconsider the policy when appropriate. The NCD will expire 10 years from the effective date if it is not reconsidered during that time. Upon expiration, coverage will be at the discretion of the MACs.”
Do you know the potential financial impact for non-compliance with the NCD changes? To help find an answer I turned to our sister company, RealTime Medicare Data (RTMD). The following tables highlights the procedure volumes, charges and payment for the Medicare Fee-for-Service (FFS) population in the RTMD foot print, which currently includes 48 states and DC. Specifically, the tables compare Medicare FFS paid claims for this procedure from January through September of 2018, 2019 and 2020.
You will note that the actual paid claims from 2019 to 2020 increased while volumes decreased. I believe the volume decrease is in part due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The increase in payment is likely due to the fact that CMS finalized regrouping this procedure from DRGs 228 and 229 (Other Cardiothoracic Procedures with MCC or without MCC respectively) to DRG 266 and 267 (Endovascular Cardiac Valve Replacement with MCC or without MCC respectively) in the FY 2020 IPPS Final Rule effective October 1, 2019. The DRG pair 266 and 267 has a higher relative weight and national average reimbursement than the DRG pair 228 and 229.
Also of note, DRGs 228 and 229 are not part of the Transfer DRG List, but DRGs 266 and 267 are both special transfer DRGs.
Not all hospitals provide this and other structural heart procedures. However, if your hospital does MMP strongly encourages you to take the time to read the entire decision memo document and provide education around the changes to all key stakeholders in your facility.
Article by Beth Cobb
Beth Cobb, RN, BSN, ACM, CCDS, is the Manager of Clinical Analytics at Medical Management Plus, Inc. Beth has over twenty-five years of experience in healthcare including eleven years in Case Management at a large multi-facility health system.
This material was compiled to share information. MMP, Inc. is not offering legal advice. Every reasonable effort has been taken to ensure the information is accurate and useful.