CMS proposes higher performance standards for year 3 of MACRA Quality Payment Program, significant changes to part B coding requirements

On July 12, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a proposed rule detailing the payment updates and policy proposals for the Medicare Part B Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and the Quality Payment Program (QPP) under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA).

As CMS moves forward with implementation of MACRA, the agency proposes raising the performance thresholds under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) for 2019. As a result, a greater percentage of clinicians participating in MIPS would face larger negative payment adjustments in 2021, while a lesser percentage of clinicians would qualify for an additional positive payment adjustment for exceptional performance. The proposed increase in the weight of the Cost measure in MIPS would be an additional challenge for many clinicians, especially as they work to adapt to new performance measures including measures that focus on the efficiency of care delivery in eight episodes of care.

The proposed rule would present unique opportunities for health plans as the All Payer Combination Option begins on January 1, 2019, and CMS opens up the payer-initiated process for commercial and other private payers to submit payment models to CMS for qualification as an Other Payer Advanced APM for the 2020 performance year. In addition, a demonstration project under consideration would present a unique opportunity for Medicare Advantage organizations (MAOs) who incorporate certain risk-based payment arrangements into their contracts with clinicians.

For other health care stakeholders, the higher performance standards under MIPS and the move away from fee-for-service reimbursement will present opportunities to partner with clinicians on efforts to more effectively monitor and improve performance in the Cost and Quality performance categories.

With regard to proposed coding changes under the PFS, health care provider organizations may want to consider an analysis as to how the proposed workflow and payment changes might affect them.

The proposed rule also moves forward with implementation of health care provisions of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA).

The proposed rule is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on July 27, 2018. Public comments are due to CMS by September 10, 2018.

Highlights of key provisions of the proposed rule are detailed below.
Continue reading “CMS proposes higher performance standards for year 3 of MACRA Quality Payment Program, significant changes to part B coding requirements”

CMS provides greater payment rate increase for Medicare Advantage, Part D plans for 2019

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on April 2, 2018, released the final version of the 2019 Medicare Advantage (MA) Capitation Rates, combined with the MA and Part D Payment Policies and the Part D Call Letter. CMS followed up with the release of the final rule, Contract Year 2019 Policy and Technical Changes to the Medicare Advantage, Medicare Cost Plan, Medicare Fee-for-Service, the Medicare Prescription Drug Benefit Programs, and the Program for All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) on Friday, April 6, 2018.

The final rule is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on April 16, 2018.

Continue reading “CMS provides greater payment rate increase for Medicare Advantage, Part D plans for 2019”

CMS leaders report to Congress on MACRA implementation

On Wednesday, March 21, the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act’s physician payment policies. The committee heard testimony from Demetrios Kouzoukas, Principal Deputy Administrator, and Dr. Kate Goodrich, the Chief Medical Officer for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Continue reading “CMS leaders report to Congress on MACRA implementation”

Budget agreement includes technical changes to MACRA, notable policy changes to other health care programs

The President on February 9, 2018, signed H.R. 1892, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, which sets discretionary spending caps for the federal government for fiscal years (FY) 2018 and 2019 while also reauthorizing federal funding and making important policy changes to a number of health care programs. The Medicare Part B physician fee schedule, including implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA); the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and state allotments to Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital (DSH) payments are among the health care issues addressed in the law.

Health care providers, plans, and other industry stakeholders may consider revisiting strategic, operational and compliance plans in light of a number of provisions of the law.

Continue reading “Budget agreement includes technical changes to MACRA, notable policy changes to other health care programs”

HHS Office of Inspector General flags MACRA vulnerabilities related to clinician awareness, program integrity

The Health & Human Services (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) in December 2017 released a report indicating that with regard to the implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) continues to face vulnerabilities related to clinician awareness of MACRA’s Quality Payment Program (QPP) and program integrity to avoid fraud and improper Medicare Part B payment adjustments.

In a similar report from 2016, HHS OIG highlighted vulnerabilities related to providing guidance and technical assistance to clinicians and to developing information technology (IT) systems to support data reporting, scoring and Part B payment adjustments. HHS OIG found that CMS has made “significant efforts” to address these vulnerabilities.

Continue reading “HHS Office of Inspector General flags MACRA vulnerabilities related to clinician awareness, program integrity”

CMS announces new voluntary bundled payment model

On January 10, 2017, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) through the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) announced a new Medicare bundled payment model, Bundled Payments for Care Improvement Advanced (BPCI-Advanced), which will be an advanced alternative payment model (AAPM) under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act’s (MACRA) Quality Payment Program (QPP). The model establishes alternative payment structures for 32 distinct clinical episodes, where providers can participate on a voluntary basis and receive performance-based payments for delivering care at less than a target amount and meeting quality standards.

Following on the 2013 CMMI BPCI initiative, BPCI-Advanced demonstrates CMS’ continued support of bundled payments on a voluntary basis to encourage both providers and suppliers to coordinate care across multiple settings and meet cost and quality benchmarks. This program is intended as an opportunity for providers to gain experience in care coordination and shared payment structures on their own terms. Details on BPCI-Advanced are described below.

Continue reading “CMS announces new voluntary bundled payment model”

CMS finalizes changes to bundled payment models

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday, November 30, 2017, released a final rule, reducing the number of geographic areas where participation in bundled payments for certain knee and hip replacements would be mandatory and canceling other orthopedic and cardiac bundled payment models that had been slated to begin January 1, 2018. In general, the final rule codifies policies that CMS put forward in a proposed rule in August.

The cancellation or ending of mandatory participation in certain payment models is part of a larger change in thinking at CMS, moving in favor of a more voluntary approach to provider participation.

Continue reading “CMS finalizes changes to bundled payment models”

CMS moves forward with implementation of MACRA, other policy changes in Physician Fee Schedule Update

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Thursday, November 2, 2017, released final rules on Medicare reimbursement for 2018 that will have significant implications for providers’ margins and drive many provider and payer organizations to revisit their strategic objectives. The final rules for the 2018 performance period under the Quality Payment Program (QPP) of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) and the 2018 Part B Physician Fee Schedule Update include critical details that will have implications for providers related to value-based care, coding compliance, health information technology investments and telehealth services, among other issues.

The final rule for the MACRA QPP 2018 performance period is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 16, 2017, and the final rule on the Part B PFS update is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on November 15, 2017. Provisions of both rules will take effect January 1, 2018.

Continue reading “CMS moves forward with implementation of MACRA, other policy changes in Physician Fee Schedule Update”

Health care looms over final months of 2017 legislative, regulatory agenda; Latest executive order could kick off period of heavy regulatory activity

Repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) has dominated the headlines for much of 2017, but the expiration of the fiscal year 2017 budget resolution on September 30, 2017, has functionally moved that effort off the top-tier of near-term legislative priorities. That said, health care legislation remains on the congressional agenda this year, and a host of regulations are due to be released before December 31, 2017.

These legislative and regulatory developments will have a significant impact on the health care industry and should be taken into account by health care providers, health plans, health information technology firms, investors and other industry stakeholders as they evaluate their strategies and plan for 2018 and the years ahead.

Below are select highlights of the health care legislative and regulatory agenda for the remainder of 2017.

Continue reading “Health care looms over final months of 2017 legislative, regulatory agenda; Latest executive order could kick off period of heavy regulatory activity”