Tag Archives: MACRA Quality Payment Program

ACCC Comments to CMS on Quality Payment Program Proposed Rule

By Blair Burnett, ACCC Policy Analyst

On August 21, 2017, ACCC submitted comments to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) regarding the agency’s proposed 2018 updates to the Quality Payment Program (QPP), a two-track value-based reimbursement system created by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The two tracks in which eligible clinicians can opt to participate are the enhanced fee-for-service based Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs), which require clinicians to take on more than nominal risk.

Under the QPP, 2017 performance will affect Medicare payments for all eligible clinicians in 2019. While many ACCC members have said they’re somewhat familiar with the program, others don’t feel quite as prepared to meet the specific program requirements.

In our comment letter, ACCC asked CMS for continued flexibility and additional clarity on how the MIPS adjustment will be applied in 2018. ACCC requested that:

  • CMS should continue to offer clinicians maximum flexibility in participating in the QPP, including through broad availability of alternative reporting options such as virtual groups, facility-based scoring, and MIPS APM reporting and scoring.

ACCC urges CMS to continue expanding the use of flexible reporting options that allow clinicians in diverse practices and communities across the country to participate in the QPP. Many ACCC practices are also currently participating in MIPS APMs, such as the Oncology Care Model (OCM), that do not currently qualify for the Advanced APM incentive outlined in the current proposal. ACCC advocates for more flexibility in what qualifies as an advanced APM and a continued flexible approach to allow clinicians to participate in the QPP to the best of their ability and in a manner that reflects the nature and priories of their practice and their patients.

  • CMS should finalize the increase in the low-volume threshold to $90,000 in Part B allowed charges and 200 Part B beneficiaries and clarify that the $90,000 threshold does not include the cost of drugs billed directly by clinicians.

ACCC supports increasing the threshold that exempts clinicians from the QPP based on a low revenue and patient volume because it allows practices with tighter resources to still successfully participate without fear of lower performance scores. We also ask CMS to clarify that the cost of the drugs billed directly by clinicians under Part B will not count towards the revenue threshold.

  • CMS should finalize its proposal to assign a weight of 0% to the cost performance category for CY 2018 and carefully implement the cost score in the future so that clinicians are assessed and scored against their peers and only for the costs of care for which they are responsible.

ACCC supports CMS’ proposal to delay scoring clinicians on cost for 2018 and urges CMS not to impose cost of care payment adjustments without accurate methodology. When considering how to assess cost under MIPS, we hope that CMS will: ensure fair beneficiary attribution for overall cost measures, establish narrowly tailored episode-based measures, apply its discretion  to reweight performance categories, and recognize the variable nature of costs through appropriate risk and specialty adjustments and exclusion of outliers.

  • Importantly, CMS should clarify that MIPS payment adjustments will not apply to Part B payments for drugs billed directly by clinicians.

ACCC strongly opposes applying the MIPS payment adjustment to Part B payments for drugs and urges CMS to clarify that the adjustment will not apply to drug payments. We are concerned that the application of MIPS adjustments to Part B drug payments would represent an unjustified change in agency policy, create incentives for clinicians to focus on cost of treatment rather than whether it is clinically appropriate, and create new barriers to access for patients.  

ACCC will update our membership when we see a final rule from CMS. Read our full comments.

With Final MACRA Rule, CMS Increases Flexibility

By Leah Ralph, Director of Health Policy, ACCC

Healthcare costsOn Friday, October 14, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final rule on the MACRA Quality Payment Program (QPP).  ACCC is conducting an in-depth analysis of the rule; however, an initial look reveals that CMS has heard the stakeholders’ message  loud and clear: Make the transition to MACRA as simple and flexible as possible. Here are some top-level highlights from the final rule:

  • Low-volume threshold exemption: the agency broadened the low-volume threshold exemption from the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS), exempting practices with less than $30,000 in Medicare charges or fewer than 100 unique Medicare patients per year. This will exclude about one-third of physicians from having to report under the Quality Payment Program (QPP).
  • Pick your pace: CMS is allowing physicians to “pick their pace” in 2017, enabling physicians to avoid negative penalties in 2019 by reporting on some data (i.e., one quality measure) for some period of time. The takeaway: even minimal performance reporting will exempt physicians from any penalties, and opportunities for a shorter, 90-day reporting period will make providers eligible for positive adjustments. (Providers must start collecting data between January 1, 2017, and October  2, 2017, and report no later than March 31, 2018.)
  • Resource use category weighted zero in first year: MIPS has four components, and originally the resource use (cost) category was going to account for 10% of your score starting in 2017. CMS has now said this category will hold zero percent weight toward your MIPS score in the first year [in 2017, the percentages will be: 60% quality measures, 25% advancing care information (EHR use), and 15% clinical improvement activities].
  • Expanding opportunities to participate in APMs: CMS has also said it plans to expand opportunities to participate in models that qualify as “advanced alternative payment models” (APMs) in 2017 and 2018. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) also informed Oncology Care Model (OCM) practices on Friday, October 14, that CMS is amending the program to allow OCM practices to take two-sided risk as early as January 2017 to qualify as an advanced APM (two years earlier than the model originally allowed).

In our comments on the proposed rule, ACCC asked for increased flexibility for practices who are still building the infrastructure to meet these requirements, and a streamlining of reporting requirements as our members increasingly engage in new delivery models and navigate the path to value-based care. ACCC’s major concerns were around timeline and administrative burden – in the final rule, CMS was responsive in many ways, but ACCC will continue to work with the agency to reduce regulatory burden and make this a workable payment system for our members.

For more information, CMS launched a website for physicians that explains the program and allows you to explore and identify different measures that are most meaningful to your practice. Find a summary of the rule here. The AMA and ASCO also have great checklists on how to prepare for participation in the QPP.

 

CMS Eases MACRA Quality Payment Program Timeline

By Leah Ralph, Director of Health Policy, ACCC

Centers_for_Medicare_and_Medicaid_Services_logoIn response to considerable pressure from industry stakeholders, medical groups and policymakers, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced last week that it would provide increased flexibility for practices to report out and comply with new data and performance requirements under the Quality Payment Program (QPP), created by the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) passed last year.

In a blog post titled “Plans for the Quality Payment Program in 2017: Pick Your Pace,” Acting CMS Administrator Andy Slavitt lays out four pathways to compliance with the new Quality Payment Program (in order of easiest to the hardest):

  • Report some data.  Providers can avoid a negative penalty by submitting some data as required by the Quality Payment Program, including data from after January 1, 2017. CMS states this option is “designed to ensure that your system is working and that you are prepared for broader participation in 2018 and 2019.” This option allows you to avoid a negative payment adjustment in 2019.
  • Participate for only part of the calendar year. Providers may submit data as required by the Quality Payment Program for a reduced number of days (not the whole year), and the performance period could begin after January 2017. Under this option, you could still qualify for a small positive payment adjustment in 2019.
  • If you’re ready to go in 2017, participate for the full calendar year. For practices that are ready to go and choose this option, their performance period will begin January 1, 2017, and they will submit data under the Quality Payment Program for a full year. These practices will qualify for a modest positive payment adjustment in 2019. CMS expects many practices will be able to do this.
  • Participate through an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM).** While the three previous options would fall under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) track, the fourth option allows providers who are receiving a certain percentage of Medicare payments or seeing a certain number of Medicare patients through a qualifying APM (the provider is taking two-sided or “more than nominal” risk) to participate through the Advanced APM track. These providers would qualify for a 5% incentive payment in 2019 in addition to any savings produced through the APM and would not be subject to MIPS requirements. (**Remember CMS lays out a very high bar to qualify for the APM track in the proposed rule: 90% of physicians are expected to choose MIPS).

Until 2019, physicians will see an annual 0.5% increase in payments, at which point payments will then be determined by performance in the Quality Payment Program either through MIPS or an advanced APM.

CMS has said the decision to provide leniency was in recognition of the “wide diversity of physician practices.” The agency has also said it is considering alternative start dates, shorter performance periods, increased flexibility for small or rural practices, and finding other ways for physicians to get more experience with the program requirements before being penalized.

CMS originally proposed that providers begin to report on measures outlined under the Quality Payment Program in January 2017 but that payments would not reflect that performance period until 2019. However with the new guidance from CMS, the easiest option essentially does not require real provider participation in 2017, but allows providers to test whether their systems are ready to fully participate in the future. While the details of the measures will remain unclear until a final rule is released, the Quality Payment Program will require practices to submit information on quality measures, how they use technology, and what improvement activities they are undertaking.

Through our comments to the agency in  June, ACCC advocated for increased flexibility and more time for physicians to prepare for undertaking the new requirements under the Quality Payment Program. We also asked the agency to restructure the APM requirements so that they are more achievable.

We commend CMS for releasing flexibility prior to a final rule on MACRA, which we expect to see later this fall, and ask for continued accommodations for practices that face myriad new requirements in the coming months and years.