Early in Slavitt's comments, available in their entirety in a June 2016 post in the CMS blog, he posed the following two questions to physicians: What do you really need to know about the MACRA program? And what new sets of requirements are there to participate?
At the outset of his explanation, Slavitt emphasized Medicare will still pay for services as it always has, but every physician and other participating clinicians will have the opportunity to be paid more for better care and for making investments that support patients—like having a staff member follow up with patients at home.
As the AMA, AAFP and other physician support organizations have done, CMS will provide comprehensive MACRA documentation, Slavitt assured the association. "We will, of course, provide information in as much or as little detail as is helpful. For those who like to read computer manuals end-to-end, there is of course the 900-page proposed rule complete with every detail about how the regulation and the law is proposed to work. But, for most people, who do not need to see every scenario and how each element of the formula works, there are webinars, in-person meetings, fact sheets, and web portals that will bring all the information to suit various needs."
Slavitt then outlined three immediate features of the program designed as improvements over Medicare's existing payment system:
- First, MACRA sunsets three disjointed programs. If you participate in the Physician Quality Reporting System, the Value Modifier, and the Meaningful Use program, your life just got simpler, as they are replaced with a single, aligned Quality Payment Program, which will reduce reporting requirements, eliminate duplication, and reduce the number of measures. For those who participate in MACRA Alternative Payment Models, those requirements are reduced further or eliminated.
- Second, it also reduces the combined possible downward adjustment of 9 percent that is occurring today from the three programs to a maximum of 4 percent in the first year of the Quality Payment Program. The program is designed to build up over the course of several years, with more modest financial impacts in the first year when the vast majority of physicians are expected to be in the MIPS part of the program.
- Third, while the Merit-Based Incentive portion of the law is designed to be budget neutral in general, there are new opportunities for additional bonuses. In MIPS, in addition to the 4 percent positive payment adjustment, there is the potential for much higher payments through $500 million in funding over six years. Physicians earn a 5 percent lump sum bonus for participating in an Advanced Alternative Payment Model.
Under the current proposed timing, the first physician reporting isn’t due until early 2018 for the first performance period in 2017, Slavitt said. Off-the-shelf tools like Certified EHRs and clinical data registries can provide complete capabilities, but other options exist as well, including most types of reporting that a physician is doing today.
If CMS can get data automatically or through another source, it will do so, he stated, before moving on to MACRA implementation and priorities.
Editor's Note: To briefly outline MACRA and advise on physician practice focus for the remainder of 2016 to avoid reimbursement penalties in 2017 based on the MACRA proposed rule, the Healthcare Intelligence Network will hold a 45-minute webinar on July 14, 2016: The New Physician Quality Reporting: Positioning Your Practice for MACRA's Merit-Based Incentive Payment System.