The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued a “payment advisory” alerting approximately 1,400 clinicians who are Qualifying APM participants based on their 2017 performance that CMS does not have the participants’ banking information. This banking information is necessary for CMS to disburse their 5% Advanced APM Incentive Payments for 2019.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has published its proposed Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) rule for calendar year (CY) 2020. In addition to updating rates for physician services, CMS proposes changes to numerous other Medicare Part B policies. Highlights of the proposed rule include the following:
- The proposed 2020 conversion factor (CF)
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued its final Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) rule for calendar year (CY) 2019. In addition to updating rates for physician services, the rule adopts changes to numerous other Medicare Part B policies. Highlights of the final rule include the following:
- The final 2019 conversion factor (CF) is $36.0391, up slightly from the 2018 CF of $35.9996. This rate is based on a statutory update of 0.25%, offset by a -0.14% relative value unit (RVU) budget neutrality adjustment.
- The rule reduces from 6% to 3% the “add-on” payment for new, separately-payable Part B drugs and biologicals that are paid based on wholesale acquisition cost when average sales price during first quarter of sales is unavailable.
- The rule makes a number of changes to the Appropriate Use Criteria (AUC) program, which requires that physicians who order outpatient advanced diagnostic imaging (ADI) services (diagnostic magnetic resonance imaging, computed tomography, and positron emission tomography/nuclear medicine) for a Medicare beneficiary consult with AUC developed by provider-led organizations approved by CMS via a qualified clinical decision support mechanism (CDSM). Specifically, the final rule:
- Extends the requirements to independent diagnostic testing facilities (joining physician offices, hospital outpatient departments, and ambulatory surgical centers).
- Clarifies that AUC consultation information must be reported on all applicable technical component and professional component claims (i.e., not just reported on claims by furnishing facilities).
- Provides that when delegated by the ordering professional, clinical staff under the direction of the ordering professional may perform the AUC consultation with a qualified CDSM (a modification to the proposed rule, which would have specified that AUC consultations may be performed by auxiliary personnel under the direction of the ordering professional and incident to the ordering professional’s services).
- Uses established coding methods (e.g., G-codes and modifiers) to report required information.
- Revises the significant hardship exception criteria to include (1) insufficient internet access; (2) electronic health record or CDSM vendor issues; (3) extreme and uncontrollable circumstances; and (4) self-attestation of hardship status for ordering professionals.
For information regarding the AUC implementation schedule, see our previous post.
Continue Reading CMS Publishes Final CY 2019 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Rates and Policies
CMS is inviting stakeholders to participate an August 22, 2019 listening session on the CY 2019 proposed Medicare physician fee schedule rule. The call will focus on three aspects of the proposed rule:
- Streamlining Evaluation and Management (E/M) payment policies
- Advancing virtual care
- Changes to the Quality Payment Program intended to reduce clinician burden,
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has issued its proposed Medicare physician fee schedule (PFS) rule for calendar year (CY) 2019. In addition to updating rates for physician services, the sweeping rule proposes changes to numerous other Medicare Part B policies. Highlights of the proposed rule include the following:
- CMS proposes a
CMS is planning a new “Medicare Advantage Qualifying Payment Arrangement Incentive (MAQI) Demonstration” that would allow clinicians who participate in certain Medicare Advantage (MA) plans that involve taking on risk to be treated as Advanced Alternative Payment Model (Advanced APM) participants under the Medicare physician fee schedule. By way of background, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) established two tracks for Medicare physician fee schedule/Quality Payment Program updates:
- The Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), which adjusts Medicare payments based on performance on quality, cost, improvement activities, and advancing care information measures, or
- Advanced APMs, under which eligible clinicians may earn incentive payments for sufficient participation in certain payment arrangements that coordinate care, improve quality, and reduce costs.
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has officially cancelled a planned program to require certain hospitals to participate in Medicare episode payment models (EPMs) for acute myocardial infarction, coronary artery bypass graft, and surgical hip/femur fracture treatment procedures furnished in designated areas of the country, along with a Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) Incentive Payment Model. These programs, which were slated to launch on January 1, 2018, were summarized in previous posts. In a press release, CMS states that not pursuing these models gives it “greater flexibility to design and test innovations that will improve quality and care coordination across the in-patient and post-acute care spectrum.”
In the same rulemaking, CMS also dramatically scaled back the ongoing Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) model. By way of background, this program provides a “bundled” payment to participant hospitals for an “episode of care” for lower extremity joint replacement (LEJR) surgery, covering all services provided during the inpatient admission through 90 days post-discharge (with certain exceptions). The bundled payment is paid retrospectively through a reconciliation process; providers receive regular fee-for-service payments in the interim. The CJR model began April 1, 2016 and runs through 2020.
Most notably, the new rule gives certain hospitals participating in the CJR model a one-time option to choose whether to continue their participation in the model, effective February 1, 2018. This voluntary election option applies to hospitals in 33 of the 67 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) selected in the original CJR final rule, along with low volume hospitals and rural hospitals in the remaining 34 mandatory participation MSAs. CMS is designating a one-time participation opt-in period from January 1 – 31, 2018 during which eligible hospitals may opt to continue to participate in CJR. Note, however, that CMS will automatically terminate CJR participation for hospitals in the designated 33 MSAs, along with low volume and rural hospitals, as of February 1, 2018, unless the hospital elects to continue participation in the CJR model. CMS expects the number of hospitals required to participate in CJR to fall from approximately 700 to about 370, and an additional 60 to 80 hospitals to make a voluntary election to continue participation. A list of all current CJR participant hospitals and their status (mandatory or voluntary) is available on the CJR webpage, as is the Voluntary Participation Election Letter Template.
CMS also adopted a number of refinements to CJR model policies, including the following:
Continue Reading CMS Scraps Cardiac/Hip Fracture Episode Payment Model, Downsizes CJR Program
A number of Congressional panels have scheduled or held recent hearings on health policy issues, including the following:
- On November 30, 2017, the House Energy & Commerce Committee is holding a hearing on implementation of the 21st Century Cures Act (Cures Act), featuring testimony by National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, M.D. and Food
CMS has issued a final rule with comment period making changes to the Quality Payment Program (QPP) for 2018, the second performance year for the reformed physician payment framework mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). CMS is continuing its “slow ramp-up” of the QPP by building on the transition policies established for 2017. In the 2018 rule, CMS intends to encourage successful QPP participation under either the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or the Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) track while reducing burdens on clinicians.
With regard to MIPS participation, the final rule:
- Reweighted the performance category scoring for 2018 as follows: Quality 50%, Cost 10%, Improvement Activities 15%, and Advancing Care Information 25%.
- Increased the performance threshold to 15 points in year two (up from 3 points in 2017).
- Established a Virtual Groups participation option under which solo practitioners and groups of 10 or fewer eligible clinicians that exceed the low-volume threshold may come together “virtually” to participate in MIPS for a one-year performance period.
- Increased the low-volume threshold to less than or equal to $90,000 in Part B allowed charges or less than or equal to 200 Part B beneficiaries (up from $30,000 charges/200 beneficiaries) in order to exclude more practices.
- Provided bonus points for: the treatment of complex patients; use of only the 2015 Edition Certified Electronic Health Record Technology; and clinicians and small practices that submit data on at least one performance category in an applicable performance period.
- Implemented an optional facility-based scoring mechanism for facility-based clinicians, beginning with the 2019 performance year.
- Created hardship exemptions in the Advancing Care Information performance category.
- Added a new improvement activity for clinicians who attest to consulting specified applicable appropriate use criteria (AUC) through a qualified clinical decision support mechanism for outpatient advanced diagnostic imaging services ordered (applicable to clinicians who are early adopters of the Medicare AUC program in the 2018 performance year and for clinicians who begin the Medicare AUC program in future years as specified in separate regulations).
- Promulgated an interim final rule with comment period to address extreme and uncontrollable circumstances MIPS eligible clinicians may face as a result of widespread catastrophic events affecting a region or locale in CY 2017, such as Hurricanes Irma, Harvey and Maria.
CMS also adopted a number of policies affecting APM participants. For instance, the final rule:
Continue Reading CMS Modifies Medicare Physician Quality Payment Program Rules for 2018
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is reviewing several CMS rules that would finalize CY 2018 Medicare payment policies for various types of providers and suppliers. Specifically, OMB is reviewing final rules to update the hospital outpatient and ambulatory surgical center PPS; the Medicare physician fee schedule and physician Quality Payment Program;…
Signals Trump Administration’s About-Face on Obama-Era Mandatory Innovation Models
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has just released a proposed rule to cancel a significant — but still-pending — Obama Administration program that would require certain hospitals to participate in Medicare episode payment models (EPMs) for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), and surgical hip/femur fracture treatment (SHFFT) procedures furnished in designated areas of the country. Perhaps more surprisingly, CMS also would dramatically scale back mandatory participation in the ongoing Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement (CJR) program, with an option for participating hospitals in about half of the current CJR locations to shift to voluntary participation.
As previously reported, the EPM and CJR programs were part of the Obama Administration’s high-profile efforts to move the Medicare system away from fee-for-service (FFS) payments and towards alternative payment models (APMs) that reward quality of care rather than volume of services. Although early APMs (e.g., the Bundled Payment for Care Initiative) were voluntary, CMS eventually shifted attention to mandatory models in order to broaden participation. President Trump’s Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tom Price, M.D., has long been critical of mandatory Medicare payment innovation models and has been contemplating changes to these programs. It is now clear that the Trump Administration is reversing course and pulling back from mandatory models. In fact, CMS stated in an announcement that it “expects to increase opportunities for providers to participate in voluntary initiatives rather than large mandatory episode payment model efforts” in the future.
EPM/CR Models Slated for Cancellation
CMS published a final rule in early 2017 to establish a mandatory EPM program for AMI and CABG cases in 98 metropolitan statistical areas (MSA), along with a mandatory EPM program for SHFFT procedures in 67 MSAs covered by the CJR program. In short, CMS planned to provide a bundled payment to hospitals in selected geographic areas for individual episodes, covering all services provided during the inpatient admission through 90 days post-discharge. In such cases, the hospital would be held accountable for spending during the episode of care. The bundled payment to the hospital would be paid retrospectively through a reconciliation process (hospitals and other providers and suppliers would continue to submit claims and receive payment via the usual Medicare FFS payment systems). A participant hospital would receive a “reconciliation payment” if its actual episode payments (combined Medicare Part A and B claims payments for services furnished to the beneficiary during the episode) were below the target price for the episode, and certain quality thresholds were met. Beginning with the second performance year, affected hospitals would be required to repay Medicare for a portion of spending that exceeded the target price (with limits on upward and downward adjustment). The rule also included provisions intended to promote the use of cardiac rehabilitation services through a Cardiac Rehabilitation (CR) Incentive Payment Model.
Continue Reading CMS Proposes Cancellation of Medicare Cardiac/Hip Fracture Episode Payment Models, Scale-Back of Mandatory CJR Participation
CMS has proposed new regulations to continue implementing the “Quality Payment Program” (QPP) — the new Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) update framework mandated by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA). As previously reported, starting in 2017, physicians will be paid under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or the Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM).
For the second year of the QPP, CMS is proposing to continue a number of transition policies established for 2017 while “ramping up to full implementation.” Notably, with regard to the MIPS track, CMS proposes to:
Continue Reading CMS Proposes Changes for Second Year of Medicare Physician Quality Payment Program
In the waning days of the Obama Administration, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has unveiled a lengthy and complex final rule to establish mandatory Medicare bundled payment programs for acute myocardial infarction (AMI), coronary artery bypass graft (CABG), and surgical hip/femur fracture treatment (SHFFT) procedures furnished in designated geographic areas. The rule also includes provisions to promote the use of cardiac rehabilitation services, refine current Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model (CJR) rules, and integrate bundled payment programs into the new physician Quality Payment Program. The 1,606-page advance version of the rule was released on December 20, 2016; the official version is scheduled to be published January 3, 2017.
Note that President-elect Donald Trump’s designee for Secretary of Health and Human Services, Rep. Tom Price, M.D., has been highly critical of the proposed version of the rule published in August 2016, and has called on the CMS Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to “stop experimenting with Americans’ health, and cease all current and future planned mandatory initiatives within the CMMI.” It is therefore uncertain whether all provisions of the final rule will actually be implemented as CMS currently envisions. Nevertheless, impacted providers need to be prepared for potentially significant changes.
Mandatory Episode Payment Models for Cardiac Care, Hip/Femur Fractures
The final rule establishes new “episode payment models” (EPMs) that seek to “advance CMS’ goal of improving the efficiency and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries and encourage hospitals, physicians, and post-acute care providers to work together to improve the coordination of care from the initial hospitalization through recovery.” CMS estimates that the EPMs will save $159 million during the duration of the program (July 1, 2017 through December 31, 2021).
CMS will “test” the EPMs beginning July 1, 2017 and ending December 31, 2021. CMS has selected 98 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) for the CABG and AMI EPMs, and will implement the SHFFT model in the same 67 MSAs where the CJR program is already underway. Acute care hospitals in these areas will participate in the models if they are paid under the Inpatient Prospective Payment System (IPPS) and are not concurrently participating in Models 2, 3, or 4 of the Innovation Center’s Bundled Payment for Care Improvement (BPCI) initiative for AMI, CABG, or SHFFT episodes. CMS estimates that approximately 1,120 hospitals will participate in the AMI and CABG models, and 860 hospitals will participate in the SHFFT model.
Under the final rule, an AMI, CABG, or SHFFT model episode will begin with an inpatient admission to an “anchor hospital” for the following specified Medicare Severity-Diagnosis Related Groups (MS-DRG):
Continue Reading CMS Issues Final Mandatory Episode Payment Models for Cardiac and Orthopedic Cases, Plus New Cardiac Rehabilitation Incentive Payment Model and CJR Program Refinements
CMS has developed a variety of Medicare value-based payment models that tie payments to quality and efficiency metrics, and the importance of such models to physicians will increase under the new Quality Payment Program. The Government Accountability Office cautions, however, that small and rural physician practices face a number of unique challenges when participating in value-based payment models. A recent GAO report catalogues five particular areas of concern for small and rural physician practices, based on a literature review and stakeholder interviews:
Continue Reading GAO Highlights Barriers to Small & Rural Provider Participation in Medicare Value-Based Payment Models
In a recent blog post, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt announced CMS’s plans to give physicians more options for complying with significant upcoming changes to Medicare physician fee schedule (MPFS) rules – which will help physicians avoid triggering a negative payment adjustment in the first year of the program.
As previously reported, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) repealed the longstanding sustainable growth rate methodology for updating the MPFS. Instead, MACRA established a period of stable MPFS annual updates, after which MPFS updates will be made pursuant to either a new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or based on participation in qualified Alternative Payment Models (APMs). CMS published a proposed rule in May 2016 to implement the MIPS and APM reforms, which together CMS calls the “Quality Payment Program.” The first reporting period for the Quality Payment Program begins on January 1, 2017, and it will impact physician payment in 2019.
Continue Reading CMS Announces Flexibility for Physician First-Year Participation in MACRA Quality Payment Program