July 14, 2016
Holy MACRA! Half of docs have never heard of Medicare payment reform
By Dave Barkholz
Half of non-pediatric physicians have never heard of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015—a new CMS payment plan that will put 4% or more of their Medicare reimbursement at risk beginning in 2019, according to a new survey by Deloitte & Touche.
With CMS preparing final rules this autumn, just 21% of self-employed or small-group physicians and 9% of physicians employed by hospitals or larger groups were even somewhat familiar with the pending reimbursement changes, the survey showed.
Physicians with a high share of Medicare payments were just as clueless about MACRA as those with lesser exposures, Deloitte found.
MACRA has two payment tracks. Clinicians in advanced alternative payment models can earn bonuses annually of 5%.
The majority of physicians, though, will participate in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System. On that track, physicians can earn plus or minus 4% of reimbursement in 2019, 5% in 2020, 7% in 2021 and 9% in 2022.
Medicare's own MACRA projections show the vast majority of physicians in groups of less than 10 suffering penalties.
That includes 87% of solo practitioners who can expect their reimbursement to fall and 70% of physicians in groups of two to nine, Medicare data show.
Quote of the Day: MACRA and the ethics of physician burnout (4/22/16):
(WARNING: Reading the Table of Contents of the following document has been known to cause acute bouts of depression)
Federal Register: Medicare Program; Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Alternative Payment Model (APM) Incentive Under the Physician Fee Schedule, and Criteria for Physician-Focused Payment Models:
Comment by Don McCanne
Physicians celebrated the passage of MACRA because it brought the end to the despised SGR method of making adjustments to Medicare payment rates. The legislation was not simply a repeal of SGR, but it was repeal and replace legislation. Most physicians are not "even somewhat familiar with the pending reimbursement changes."
Physicians complain about Medicare's low payment rates, but are they in for a surprise. Most solo and small group physicians will have rate cuts of up to 9 percent under MACRA.
Those interested in more information may want to read the Federal Register entry on MACRA's MIPS and APM (link above), or maybe not, since it could take you the better part of a week. Just reading the very long Table of Contents may be enough.
In a fairly recent Quote of the Day we described how MACRA will likely compound the current epidemic of physician burnout (link above). It's depressing.
We can do something about it. We can enact and implement a well designed single payer national health program. For those who think that the current system is better, it is probably time to make an appointment with your mental health professional.