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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

CMS awards millions to help small practices succeed in the QPP

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is rolling out a new effort to give clinicians in solo and small group practices on-the-ground training and education about the Quality Payment Program (QPP). CMS has announced $20 million in grants to 11 organizations to provide the services for the first year of a five-year program. Working through the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), CMS plans to invest up to an additional $80 million over the remaining four years.

CMS awarded contracts to the following organizations:

• Altarum

• Georgia Medical Care Foundation (GMCF)

• HealthCentric

• Health Services Advisory Group (HSAG)


• Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI)

• QSource

• Qualis

• Quality Insights (West Virginia Medical Institute)

• Telligen

• TMF Health Quality Institute

These groups will provide hands-on training to help thousands of small practices, especially those in historically under-resourced areas, including those that are rural, have a shortage of health professionals, or are medically underserved. For example, clinicians will receive help choosing and reporting on quality measures, as well as guidance with all aspects of the program, including supporting change management and strategic planning and assessing and optimizing health information technology. The training and education resources will be available immediately, nationwide, and will be provided at no cost to eligible clinicians and practices.

To find out if your practice is eligible for this assistance, you can call 1-866-288-8292 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (EST) or email qpp@cms.hhs.gov.

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

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Executive orders and family medicine

Amid the furor surrounding other executive orders recently signed by President Donald Trump, family physicians may find one on which they can agree.

On Jan. 30, the administration issued an executive order titled, “Reducing Regulation and Controlling Regulatory Costs.” The order establishes a framework designed to reduce the cost of compliance with federal regulations. First, it provides that federal agencies, when proposing a new regulation, must “identify at least two existing regulations to be repealed.” Second, it requires that the incremental cost of any new regulation be “no greater than zero.”

The stated intention of the executive order is to decrease the cost of running a business (such as a family medicine practice), to the extent that regulations from federal agencies contribute to such costs.  The order says that all new regulations must be cost-neutral and that the net impact (new regulation minus the two repealed regulations) cannot increase "incremental costs" on the regulated community. Finally, exceptions will be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

The implementation of the order is left to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). On Feb. 2, OMB issued to all government agencies a memo containing interim guidance and frequently asked questions on how to implement this order.  This memo clarifies that:

•    The order applies to "significant" regulations. "Significant" is not defined in the guidance, but under a 1993 Executive Order still in effect, a "significant" rule is defined as any that imposes an annual economic cost of $100 million or more.  
•    Government agencies intending to issue a “significant regulatory action” on or before Sep. 30, must first “identify two existing regulatory actions the agency plans to eliminate or propose for elimination” before the new regulation is issued.
•    Agencies must “fully offset total incremental cost” of the new regulation as of Sep. 30.
•    The costs of regulations are “measured as the opportunity cost to society,” defined as "the net benefit [a] resource would have provided in the absence of the requirement."
•    Waivers exist for regulations that address health, safety or financial emergencies. 

Future rules governing Medicare physician payment (such as those implementing the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015, or MACRA) could be shaped by this order. Stay tuned!

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Meaningful use deadlines extended to March 13

It is the season for Medicare program deadline extensions. If you are in the process of reporting your 2016 data for the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program, also known as meaningful use, the deadline has just been extended from Feb. 28 to 11:59 pm (PT) on March 13. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said this extension applies to those eligible professionals looking to avoid a negative payment adjustment on Medicare reimbursements in 2018.  Those participating in the Medicaid EHR Incentive Program should refer to the attestation deadlines in their particular state.  

However, there is still one critical Feb. 28 deadline remaining. If CMS has notified you that your practice failed to successfully demonstrate meaningful use for the 2015 performance year, meaning you are scheduled to receive a negative payment adjustment on all Medicare reimbursements in the associated 2017 payment year, you still must complete and submit a application to request reconsideration by the end of the month. Likewise, if you applied for a hardship exception tied to challenges in the 2015 performance year and your application was denied, you still need to complete a request for reconsideration by Feb. 28 or face negative payment adjustments this year.

The application for reconsideration and instructions related to the application are available on the CMS website for EHR Incentive programs, payment adjustments, and hardships.  For questions about the Reconsideration Application, email pareconsideration@provider-resources.com.

For questions about the Registration and Attestation System, contact the EHR Information Center at 1-888-734-6433 (option 1), which is open Monday through Friday from 6:30 am to 5:30 pm ET.

– Theresa Wilkes, Medical Informatics Strategist for AAFP

Friday, February 3, 2017

Deadline extended for certain PQRS reporting

If you are reporting to the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) using the Electronic Health Record (EHR) method, you now have a little more time to submit your data. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that it was extending the Feb. 28 deadline for PQRS submission through the EHR or qualified clinical data registry (QCDR) mechanisms.

Eligible professionals (EPs) and groups have until March 31 to submit their 2016 quality reporting document architecture (QRDA) I or III files for the EHR Direct, EHR Data Submission Vendor (DSV), and QCDR reporting mechanisms. Qualified registries and QCDRs that use XML files also have until March 31 to submit. Vendors may have their own individual deadlines that may be earlier. EPs should work directly with their vendors to ensure their data is submitted before the deadline.

EPs who fail to satisfactorily report to PQRS for 2016 will receive the maximum negative payment adjustment in 2018. EPs failing to report will also face the maximum negative payment adjustment for their group size under the Value-Based Payment Modifier Program (VBPM). Payment adjustments for the PQRS and VBPM are separate from those for the Medicare Electronic Health Record Incentive Program (a.k.a “meaningful use”). EPs have until March 13 to submit their meaningful use data. EPs can submit CQMs using the PQRS EHR reporting method or QCDR QRDA III files to fulfill the CQM requirements for both meaningful use and PQRS. EPs can contact the QualityNet Help Desk for questions about PQRS and the EHR Information Center Help Desk (1-888-734-6433, option 1) for questions relating to meaningful use.

The final year for which EPs are required to submit data for PQRS, VBPM, and meaningful use is 2016. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 consolidates these programs into the Quality Payment Program (QPP). The first performance period for the QPP began on Jan. 1. Physicians can learn more about the QPP on the AAFP website or in the latest issue of FPM.

– Erin Solis, Regulatory Compliance Strategist at the American Academy of Family Physicians

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