On July 30, 2012, CMS is publishing a proposed rule updating the Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) for 2013 and modifying numerous other Medicare Part B policies. Most significantly, the proposed rule would impose a 27% across-the-board cut in MPFS payments, largely due to the statutory Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) update formula (although Congress is expected to eventually take action to block the automatic cuts, as it has in the past). Comments on the proposed rule are due by September 4, 2012. The following are highlights of the wide-ranging proposal:

  • Under the proposed rule, the 2013 MPFS conversion factor would be $24.7124, compared to $34.0376 in 2012. As noted, Congress could override the SGR formula on either a temporary or permanent basis, but the timing and scope of any such action is uncertain.
  • Numerous other provisions of the rule impact payment for particular services under the MPFS. For instance, CMS would boost payment to primary care physicians by authorizing separate payment to a patient’s community physician or practitioner to coordinate the patient’s care in the 30 days following a hospital or skilled nursing facility stay. On the other hand, certain specialists would be negatively impacted by CMS’s proposal to expand its multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) policy. Under the proposed rule, CMS will implement its policy, discussed in the CY 2012 final rule, applying the MPPR when one or more physicians in the same group practice furnish advance imaging services to the same patient, in the same session, on the same day (note that this is not a proposal; it will be effective January 1, 2013). CMS states that it generally intends to apply its MPPR policy to services furnished by physicians in the same group practice, unless special circumstances warrant a more limited application. CMS also proposes to apply the MPPR to the technical component of certain cardiovascular and ophthalmology diagnostic services for 2013. Under this proposed policy, CMS would make full payment for the highest paid cardiovascular or ophthalmology diagnostic service and reduce the technical component payment for subsequent cardiovascular or ophthalmologic diagnostic services furnished by the same physician or group practice to the same patient on the same day by 25%.
  • CMS requests comments on the appropriate basis for payment for advanced diagnostic molecular pathology services. CMS is considering whether all new advanced diagnostic molecular pathology codes should be priced under the same fee schedule (either the MPFS or the clinical laboratory fee schedule). If CMS decides that such codes should be paid under the MPFS for CY 2013, the agency proposes to allow local Medicare contractors to price these codes because CMS does not believe it has sufficient information to establish accurate national pricing and because the price of tests can vary locally.
    • CMS proposes to continue implementation of the physician value-based payment modifier (Value Modifier), which was mandated by the ACA as a way to reward physicians for providing higher quality and more efficient care. In the final 2012 rule, CMS adopted performance measures to be used for future MPFS payment adjustments based on the Value Modifier. The proposed 2013 rule sets forth the payment methodology and phase-in plans. The Value Modifier is being phased in over from CY 2015 to CY 2017, with CY 2013 serving as the initial performance period for the CY 2015 Value Modifier. Under the proposed 2013 rule, the Value Modifier initially will apply to all groups of physician with 25 or more eligible professionals. These groups will be able to chose two payment calculation options: (1) Value Modifier based strictly on participation in the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), with groups that do not participate in the PQRS having a Value Modifier set at a -1.0 percent, or (2) Value Modifier based on quality tiering, whereby groups with higher quality and lower costs would be paid more, and groups with lower quality and higher costs would be paid less.
  • The sweeping rule also addresses, among many other things: modification of CMS’s Part B drug average manufacturer price (AMP) substitution policy to address drug shortage situations; payment reviews and adjustments for potentially misvalued codes; revisions to the PQRS and the Electronic Prescribing (eRx) Incentive Program; allowing Medicare to pay for portable x-ray services ordered by non-physician practitioners acting within their services within their state scope of practice and the scope of their Medicare benefit (in addition to physicians who currently may do so); termination of non-random prepayment review under the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement, and Modernization Act, and new claims-based data reporting requirements for therapy services under the Middle Class Tax Relief and Jobs Creation Act. Also, as discussed in the separate summary below, CMS is proposing to require a face-to-face evaluation as a condition of Medicare payment for certain types of durable medical equipment (DME).