ACOsMerit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)Quality Payment ProgramValue-Based Health Care
December 2, 2020

The 2021 QPP Final Rule: A Warning Bell for ACOs and a Wake-Up Call for MIPS Participants

In a mere 2,165 pages, CMS has solidified the provisions of the 2021 Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program (QPP) Final Rule. The Final Rule strongly resembles the Proposed Rule, and the implications, particularly for ACOs, are staggering. Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organizations (MSSP ACOs) and the Alternate Payment Model (APP) Pathway The most substantial change is that 2021 will mark the introduction of the Alternate Payment Model (APM) Performance Pathway, known as the APP. The APP aligns MIPS and APM participation more effectively in the Quality Payment Program (QPP). The APP is a pre-defined set of…
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COVID-19Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)Quality Payment ProgramValue-Based Health Care
August 5, 2020

“Push-Pull” for Providers in Medicare’s Proposed 2021 Rule for Physician Fees and Quality Reporting

The newly published 2021 CMS Physician Fee Schedule and Quality Payment Program (QPP) Proposed Rule reflects our harsh reality: Operate under the constraints of the COVID-19 pandemic, while moving toward uniformity and Risk. That tension is palpable in the Proposed Rule’s "push-pull" of CMS trying to continue to advance a Value agenda while stuck in the mud of the pandemic. Rather than launching the next step of integrating CMS quality improvement activities, the Proposed Rule stays the current course for MIPS Quality Reporting to avoid additional stress on providers during the COVID-19 pandemic. But the Proposed Rule also continues to…
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COVID-19Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)RiskValue-Based Health Care
June 26, 2020

The Fallacy of “Relief”: The Dangers of MIPS Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances Applications

Under the banner of “relief,” CMS has announced that clinicians will have the opportunity to file an Extreme and Uncontrollable Circumstances  application to qualify for re-weighting in some or all components of the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). This possibility may sound intriguing, but don’t be fooled—those who take this route are overlooking the longer-term consequences of maintaining and expanding MIPS efforts. MIPS Is Not Going Away The day before releasing 2020 MIPS flexibility guidance, CMS announced the creation of the Office of Burden and Health Informatics, which has grown out of the Patients Over Paperwork initiative. In this notice…
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ACO ReportingCOVID-19RiskValue-Based Health Care
May 6, 2020

The Interim ACO Rule Explained: A Pause, Not a Reprieve

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to upend health care in the U.S., pressure has mounted on CMS to adjust its efforts to drive providers to adopt risk. In response, at the end of last week CMS announced a carve-out of COVID-19 patient expenses from certain reporting requirements. In this round, ACOs were on the receiving end, being largely excused from remaining 2019 reporting and 2020 enrollment obligations. True to our predictions, this will slow, but not reverse CMS’s ultimate agenda to push providers to manage under risk. Those who interpret the Interim Rule as a reprieve will do so at…
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Alternative Payment Models (APM)Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)Quality Payment ProgramValue-Based Health Care
November 6, 2019

The Final 2020 Quality Payment Rule: Playing It Safe with MIPS No Longer Works

The common refrain within the 2475-page Medicare Final Rule for the Physician Fee Schedule and Updates for the Quality Payment Program (QPP) is “we are finalizing our policy as proposed.” This Rule follows the formula CMS adopted in its “Pathways to Success” ACO Rule: Propose a shake-up, reply to concerned commenters, and finalize policy without significant changes. CMS’s desire to move providers into Alternate Payment Models (APMs) comes through loud and clear, both in terms of its vision for MIPS 2.0 and in its more stringent scoring policies. As it stands now, MIPS has not evolved into the program CMS envisioned…
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Alternative Payment Models (APM)Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)Quality Payment ProgramRisk
July 31, 2019

A MIPS Rewrite is Certain: CMS Proposed Rule for the 2020 Quality Payment Program

The CMS Proposed Rule for the 2020 Physician Fee Schedule and changes to the Quality Payment Program picks up where the “Pathways to Success” ACO rule left off. This time, the “Pathways” shake-up is aimed squarely at MIPS, in the form of “MIPS Value Pathways.” We’ve described the growing frustration with MIPS, specifically MedPAC’s report to Congress on its concerns that MIPS is overly burdensome and complex, and doesn’t translate into better care. That theme repeatedly shines through the 1,704 page proposal. CMS is using this rule as an initial salvo indicating that MIPS as we know it is headed…
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ACOsAdvanced Alternative Payment ModelsRiskValue-Based Health Care
January 9, 2019

Pathways to Success: How CMS is Encouraging ACO Participation Despite Impending Financial Risk

CMS closed 2018 with a farewell to upside-only ACOs. Perhaps the biggest surprise in the “Pathways to Success” Final ACO Rule is its consistency with the Proposed Rule, which floated the revamped ACO Track back in August. Citing superior performance among two-sided participants, as well as the belief that upside-only tracks reduce patient choice and increase costs, CMS has finalized its proposal to push all ACOs into two-sided arrangements. Not coincidentally, this rule was simultaneously released with NextGen ACO model results, which showed that these 44 downside-risk ACOs saved $164 million. The rule, which will go into effect on July…
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Future of Health CareMerit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)Quality Payment ProgramRiskValue-Based Health Care
November 7, 2018

The Final 2019 Quality Payment Program Rule: A Slow (but Steady) Push to Risk

Brew a pot of coffee! CMS has released a 2,378-page Final Rule covering the 2019 performance year for the Quality Payment Program, including the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). Those who dive into this document will gain insight into CMS’s vision for the future. It seems tortuous to suggest “reading between the lines” when there’s already so much laid out in black-and-white, but recognizing the context within the rule enables you to prepare for the future—spelled R-I-S-K. The Final Rule is very close to what was proposed back in July and has been similarly justified—CMS continues to cite Meaningful Measures, Patients…
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ACOsFuture of Health CareValue-Based Health Care
August 15, 2018

Proposed ACO Final Rule: 10 Essential Takeaways from “Pathways to Success”

The Final Rule for the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) Accountable Care Organization (ACO)  has been released, the first real revision since the program’s inception. Introducing the proposed rule, CMS stated that it is time to put real ‘accountability’ in Accountable Care Organizations, and this means that ACOs need to accept financial risk. The theme behind Pathways to Success is to end the one-sided risk model. ACO Savings Success Was Zero-to-Limited Under the Savings-Only Model Although ACOs were supposed to curb healthcare spending, data released earlier this year showed that CMS actually spent $384 million more, rather than saving $1.7…
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Alternative Payment Models (APM)Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS)Qualified Clinical Data Registry ReportingValue-Based Health Care
July 25, 2018

The Proposed 2019 Quality Payment Program (QPP) Rule: What You May Have Missed

Whoever said bureaucracy doesn’t foster change did not anticipate CMS’s Proposed Rule for the Quality Payment Program (QPP), 2019 performance year version, released on July 12. While the familiar overarching structure of MIPS remains, there are a number of revisions that activate newly developed policies. These include “Patients Over Paperwork” and “Meaningful Measures” efforts that CMS initiated in 2018 to streamline the requirements-heavy MIPS program. To be honest, there are some rough patches within the wrangling of old and new MIPS provisions in the 1,473 page 2019 Medicare Physician Schedule Proposed Rule, set to be published in the Federal Register…
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