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Changes to Healthcare that Hospitalists Should Expect in 2016


On the heels of last year’s repeal of the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, 2016 promises to be a year of significant changes for the healthcare system. These changes will require providers to focus not just on the immediate pressures and requirements coming from Medicare, of which there are many, but also to look down the road to how things will change in the coming years.

The final year of reporting on quality measures for the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) is 2016, with performance impacting Medicare payments in 2018. Reporting on quality measures doesn’t end there, however. The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) repealed the SGR and created two new pathways for pay-for-performance for physicians and most other providers: the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and alternative payment models. After this year, reporting quality measures becomes one component of the MIPS, a program similar to hospital value-based purchasing, but designed for providers.

Quality measures are here to stay. They form the backbone for evaluating whether healthcare is of value. Under the MIPS, quality measures are combined with cost measures, meaningful use, and clinical performance improvement activities to create an aggregate score for providers. That score will be used to determine payment adjustments for providers starting in 2019.

Also in 2016, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will lay the foundation for the MIPS. It is a completely new program, and although it will build on elements of existing programs like PQRS, meaningful use, and the physician value-based payment modifier, its structure and ramifications are ultimately unknown. CMS has indicated its intention to issue the regulatory backbone of MIPS in just a few months. These regulations will be the new reality of Medicare’s fee-for-service for the foreseeable future.

The ramifications of MIPS cannot be understated. It will apply an adjustment based on performance on all Medicare Part B payments. That adjustment starts at +/- 4.0% in 2019 and rises to +/- 9.0% by 2022, a number that is not as far off as it seems based on how these programs operate.

SHM expects many of the current PQRS policies to be continued under MIPS, which means, unfortunately, that many of the challenges facing hospitalists will continue. Hospitalists do not have many measures to report on; most measures are developed for outpatient practices, are simply not reflective of the variability of hospitalist practice, and, even if specified for inpatient reporting, are not clinically relevant.

To meet the needs of hospitalists, SHM will advocate strongly for CMS to develop more flexible and relevant reporting options. We will work to ensure that hospitalists are not structurally disadvantaged by the policies set in place.

Given these upcoming changes, it is as important as ever for you to stay engaged and informed about the policy changes coming down the road. It might be just the start of the year, but already there’s a lot of critical work to do. To get involved and remain apprised of the changes, join SHM’s grassroots network at TH

Joshua Lapps is SHM’s government relations manager.

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