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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Time running out for PQRS and eRx incentives

It's not too late to participate in a pair of federal incentive programs targeting clinical quality and computerized prescriptions. But you need to move fast.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) this week hosted a national call to discuss how physicians and other eligible health care professionals can submit 2012 program year data for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and the Electronic Prescribing (eRx) Incentive Program.

In case you missed it, below are some of the highlights.

For individual eligible professionals, you still have time to participate in the 2012 PQRS if you report your information either through a qualified registry or through a qualified electronic health record (EHR). The EHR option can communicate either directly or through a data submission vendor.

Registry vendors can submit data between Feb. 1 and March 31. EHR users can already submit their data, but they only have until Feb. 28. No submissions after the end dates will be allowed.

You may potentially qualify to receive a full-year incentive payment. But even if you don't, it's good experience in reporting PQRS measures before tackling 2013, which is the reporting period CMS will use in determining PQRS penalties in 2015.

The same options and dates apply with respect to the eRx Incentive Program. As with the PQRS, you may potentially qualify to receive a full-year incentive payment, and you may potentially qualify to avoid the 2014 eRx penalty. However, to avoid a penalty this year, you had to have complied with the program by June 30, 2012.

For more information on the programs, you can find the presentation from the national call online.

– Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment for the American Academy of Family Physicians

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Avoiding Medicare cliff still has initial consequences for payment

With the Medicare payment cliff averted for now, Medicare and its contractors are beginning to implement payments for 2013 services. Here is what you can expect, based on information provided by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

First, CMS is revising the 2013 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) to reflect the new law's requirements as well as technical corrections identified since publication of the final rule on the 2013 MPFS in November 2012. Officially, the 2013 conversion factor is $34.0230.

Second, to allow sufficient time to develop, test, and implement the revised MPFS, Medicare contractors were able to hold MPFS claims with January 2013 dates of service for up to 10 business days (i.e., through Jan. 15). CMS expected those claims to be released into processing no later than Jan. 16. The claim hold should have minimal impact on your cash flow, however, because, under current law, clean electronic claims are not paid sooner than 14 calendar days (29 for paper claims) after the date of receipt anyway. Claims with dates of service prior to Jan. 1, 2013, are unaffected.

Medicare contractors will be posting the correct MPFS payment rates on their websites no later than Jan. 23. If you have downloaded or will be downloading the fee schedule from your local Medicare contractor's web site, double-check to ensure that it reflects the correct rates, based on the recent change in the law.

Finally, the 2013 Annual Participation Enrollment Program allowed eligible physicians, practitioners, and suppliers an opportunity to change their Medicare participation status by Dec. 31, 2012. Given the new legislation, CMS is extending the 2013 annual participation enrollment period through Feb. 15, 2013. Therefore, you have until Feb. 15, 2013, to postmark any participation changes (both elections and withdrawals) that you want to make. The effective date for any participation status changes during the extension remains Jan. 1, 2013, and will be binding for the rest of the year.

– Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment for the American Academy of Family Physicians

Monday, January 7, 2013

Webinar to discuss what's new in Medicare and Medicaid payment in 2013

With the Medicare payment cliff averted for now, Medicare payments should be fairly stable for a while. However, that does not mean there are no changes in store for Medicare and Medicaid this year.

From Medicare adding two new codes for transitional care management to Medicaid payments for some primary care services rising to the level of Medicare to the continuing use of Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) bonuses, it's going to be a busy year for family physicians understanding and taking advantage of the new payment rules.

My colleague Debra Seyfried and I will be covering these and other aspects of Medicare payment in 2013 during a live webinar at 1:00 p.m. (Central Standard Time) on Jan. 23, 2013. I would invite you to join us by registering online. It could make a difference to your bottom line this year and in years to come.

– Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment for the American Academy of Family Physicians

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Medicare's fiscal cliff averted ... for now

They waited until the very last second, but members of Congress on Tuesday approved legislation that preserves Medicare physician payment rates for another year and delays planned budget cuts until March.

In the waning hours of New Year's Day, the U.S. House of Representatives passed House Resolution 8, the American Taxpayer Relief Act, which had previously been approved by the Senate. Under the act, current Medicare physician payment rates (i.e., the conversion factor) are extended through Dec. 31, 2013, thus avoiding the 26.5 percent cut required by the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula. The act also delays, for two months, implementation of the Budget Control Act's sequestration provision, which could reduce payments by an additional 2 percent.

The $25 billion cost for the SGR patch was offset by an array of provisions. One of those included extending the statute of limitations from three to five years for recoupment of Medicare overpayments.

So, what does this mean for your Medicare payments in 2013? Well, for the next two months at least, you should not see any substantial changes. The actual payment allowance for some services may vary slightly, based on changes in relative value units assigned to those services and other elements of the Medicare physician fee schedule. If Congress fails to further address the sequestration cut, you may see a 2 percent drop in your Medicare allowances in early March. Otherwise, things should be stable through the end of the year. 

The American Academy of Family Physicians and the rest of organized medicine continue to push for a permanent solution to the SGR problem. In the meantime, Congress has provided another of its annual patches to this perennial issue.

– Kent Moore, Senior Strategist for Physician Payment for the American Academy of Family Physicians

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