Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Medicare and the Quality Payment Program- What is it and who can participate. (Part 1 of 2)

Many physicians and their staff ask what a Quality Payment Program is and who can or should participate. Currently the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is looking to move to a more beneficial Quality Payment Program (QPP), but knowing the past would be helpful. Way back physicians were reimbursed in a Fee-for-Service (FFS) model where it was volume, not quality that drove the payment. As this payment model was slowly getting out of hand, Congress passed temporary fixes called “doc fixes” to avoid cuts in reimbursement. If they did not do this it would have resulted in a 21% cut in Medicare payments to clinicians.

In comes a great idea, a Quality Payment Program (QPP) that can help to reform Medicare Part B payments for more than 600,000 clinicians across the country. This is a huge step in the direction of improving care and controlling costs across an entire healthcare delivery system. There are two tracks that a clinician can choose from which are Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs) that require the clinician to participate in an innovative payment model. 

The second option is the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) which works with clinicians that choose to remain in a more traditional Medicare payment model and possibly earn a performance-based payment adjustment.
Now the question is who can participate? The Quality Payment Program is available to all Medicare Part B clinicians billing more than $30,000 a year to Medicare and providing care for more than 100 Medicare patients per year. The clinicians include Physicians, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, Clinical Nurse Specialists, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. 

Those clinicians who are excluded from the QPP are ones that enroll in Medicare for the first time during a performance period as they are exempt from reporting on any measures and activities for MIPS until the next performance year. Also, clinicians that are below the low-volume threshold of $30,000 per year in billing to Medicare or they see less than 100 Medicare patients per year. In addition, clinicians significantly participating in Advance Payment Models (APMs) are excluded.

Overall, this program is designed for small practices to be able to successfully participate in the Quality Payment Program by reducing the time and cost to participate, allowing the small practices to “Pick Your Pace,” increasing the opportunities to participate in an APM, including a practice-based option for participation in an Advanced APM as an alternative to total cost-based, and by conducting support and outreach to small practices through various programs such as Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative.  

For the Rural and Health Professional Shortage Areas (HPSAs) they can have less than or equal to $30,000 in Medicare Part B allowed charges or less than or equal to 100 Medicare patients served. They only need to report on one high-weighted activity or two medium-weighted activities. These are all designed to have ease of access to the program, regardless of the size of the practice or the location that they serve Medicare patients.
Written by Michael "Kevin" Harrington, MSHA, RHIA, CHP  Faculty, Saint Joseph's College

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