- Medicare physicians welcomed CMS' announcement last week that the administration is offering new options to help them ease into the new payment requirements of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) set to take effect Jan. 1, 2017.
- The CMS initially offered two options for physicians to comply with the new requirements, but has increased the options to four in response to industry feedback to the administration's April proposal for implementing the provisions of MACRA known as the Quality Payment Program.
- Although the new choices add significant flexibility, CMS did not go so far as to extend the deadline for compliance, as it had said it would consider.
CMS' softer approach to implement the Quality Payment Program is winning points with providers and policymakers alike. The decision was praised by the American Medical Association for better reflecting the diversity of medical practices throughout the U.S.
"The AMA believes the actions that the Administration announced today will help give physicians a fair shot in the first year of MACRA implementation," the AMA said in a prepared statement. "This is the flexibility that physicians were seeking all along, and we are looking forward to working with acting Administrator Slavitt and the administration on other efforts to get MACRA off to a successful start."
The move was also praised by some Republicans who had raised concerns with the timeline for implementation, including Rep. Michael C. Burgess, M.D. (R-TX), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing, and Trade, who stated, "Just as this policy was carefully crafted with the input of everyone affected by the payment policies, the implementation process should be conducted in the same way."
The first new option is to simply "test" the program by submitting some data to the Quality Payment Program to ensure physicians' systems are working and prepared for broader participation in the next years.
The second new option is to participate for part of the year, which would allow practices to submit their first performance period for a time later than Jan. 1, 2017 and still qualify for a small positive payment adjustment.
The third and fourth options are those of the original plan, which are to participate for the full calendar year, or to to participate by joining an Advanced Alternative Payment Model, which involves more risk but can qualify practices for a 5% incentive payment in 2019.