CMS has released its final rule updating the Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) for 2013 and modifying numerous other Medicare Part B policies. Most significantly, the final rule includes a 26.5% across-the-board cut in physician fee schedule payments as a result of the statutory sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. While Congress is widely expected to mitigate this policy in future legislation, the timing and scope of any such “fix” is highly uncertain. The following are highlights of the sweeping rule:

  • Under the final rule, the 2013 MPFS conversion factor will be $25.0008, compared to $34.0376 in 2012. As noted, Congress could override the 26.5% SGR cut on either a temporary or permanent basis. Other provisions of the rule impact reimbursement for different types of services. For instance, the final rule seeks to benefit 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 (SNF) stay. On the other hand, certain specialists, like diagnostic radiologists, would be negatively impacted by CMS’s continued expansion of the multiple procedure payment reduction (MPPR) policy. Under the final rule, on January 1, 2013 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 the interpretation of advance imaging services to the same patient, in the same session, on the same day. CMS also will apply the MPPR to the technical component of certain cardiovascular and ophthalmology diagnostic services for 2013. Under this policy, CMS will 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% for cardiovascular diagnostic services or 20% for ophthalmologic diagnostic services.
  • CMS announced it is continuing to pay certain molecular pathology tests under the clinical laboratory fee schedule (CLFS), instead of assigning new genetic and genomic test codes to the physician fee schedule (as contemplated under the proposed rule). CMS also is establishing a new code (G0452, Molecular diagnostics; interpretation and report) to reimburse physicians under the MPFS for interpreting these tests.
  • CMS is continuing 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 final 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 final 2013 rule, the Value Modifier initially will apply to all groups of physician with 100 or more eligible professionals (up from 25 in the proposed rule). These groups will be able to choose 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% and groups that have reported at least one measure or elected the PQRS administrative claims option receiving a modifier of 0.0% (no payment adjustment, or (2) Value Modifier based on quality tiering, whereby groups with higher quality and lower costs will be paid more (maximum 2% increase), and groups with lower quality and higher costs will be paid less (maximum 1% negative adjustment).
  • The 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 has adopted a requirement for a face-to-face evaluation as a condition of Medicare payment for certain types of durable medical equipment (DME).

The rule was published in the Federal Register on November 16, 2012. CMS will accept comments on a limited number of provisions (interim final work, practice expense (PE), and malpractice RVUs for new, revised, potentially misvalued, and certain other CY 2013 HCPCS codes) until December 31, 2012.