MACRA 911: Getting Started

On April 16, 2015, President Obama signed into law the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), significantly changing the health care financing system for the first time since 1965. The details of these sweeping changes are still being worked out, but all physicians should make plans for the new payment system.

MACRA repealed the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) payment system, which governed how physicians were paid under Part B of the Medicare program, and replaced its fee-for-service reimbursement model with a new two-track system requiring physicians to accept a certain amount of risk: Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

While MACRA only impacts Medicare payments, commercial payers typically follow Medicare’s payment models, and it is likely that risk will be more prominent in the commercial setting over the next several years. This is just the beginning of the official rulemaking process, but it is already clear that physicians will have a choice in whether to participate in MIPS or meet requirements for an APM.

The Medical Association is studying the proposed rule and may provide comments particularly on those provisions of the rule of most significance to smaller practices. The timeline of the implementation of MACRA is of the utmost importance in that physicians will begin reporting Jan. 1, 2017, which will affect Medicare payments in 2019. The Association will provide more information as it becomes available.

Here are the steps you can take to prepare your practice for one of the two new Medicare paths:

Review your quality measurement and reporting. Understanding current quality reporting requirements and how you are scoring across both the Medicare Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) and private payers will help your practice be better suited for the upcoming changes.

Access and review your Medicare Quality and Resource Use Reports (QRUR) to see where you can make improvements related to cost ahead of time. Two particularly important components to identify as you prepare for meeting the care coordination requirements are: (1) your most costly patient population conditions and diagnoses, and (2) targeted care delivery plans for these conditions.

Tip: You can access your 2014 annual PQRS feedback reports and QRURs on the CMS Enterprise Portal using your Enterprise Identify Data Management account. Learn more about how to access these reports. If you are part of a large practice, you may need to talk to your administrator about accessing your QRUR.

Understand your patient data and benchmarks. Data registries can streamline reporting and improve performance scores. You can view a list of 2016 CMS-approved qualified clinical data registries and contact information on the CMS website.

Check on your electronic health record (EHR). If you use an EHR, contact your vendor to discuss how its product supports adoption of new payment models.

Make sure your EHR is certified to the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT’s (ONC) 2014 or 2015 certification requirements. Using a 2014 or 2015 edition EHR is essential for participation in either MIPS or APMs.

Ask your vendor when it will update your software to the 2015 certified edition and whether reporting quality measures through the EHR is a viable option based on the proposed MIPS quality requirements.

Tip: You can check your product’s certification in a listing by the ONC.

For more information on how to prepare for the new Medicare payment systems, review this MACRA checklist.

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