Physicians who count Medicare among their payers already know the government green-lighted a 1.1% increase in Medicare Part B payments to physicians last summer. The increase was made official by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) on Oct. 30, with the release of the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Final Rule for fiscal year 2009. The Final Rule governs what services are reimbursed by Medicare, the reimbursement levels for those services, and other rules pertaining to Medicare. Many of these changes, additions, and deletions were dictated by the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act, or MIPPA. (See “MIPPA Matters,” December 2008, p. 18.)
The 2009 Final Rule not only makes official the short-term, 1.1% payment increase, it also marks significant increases in payments for inpatient evaluation and management services, higher bonuses for participation in the Physician Quality Reporting Initiative (PQRI), and new policies to help direct the future of healthcare.
Here is a look at a few of the key aspects of the Final Rule, of which you may not be aware:
In a continued effort to make healthcare transparent, CMS will begin posting the names of physicians who successfully report through the 2009 PQRI on a physician compare Web site in 2010. (2007 and 2008 PQRI participants will not be included.) Just as the Hospital Compare site enables consumers to view data on facilities, this site will allow consumers to view data reported by individual doctors.
Although consumers may be interested in checking for information on their primary care physician, it is unlikely inpatients will check the site before agreeing to see a specific hospitalist. However, the Physician Compare site will have some impact on hospital medicine. “I think this is the beginning of physicians’ commitment to greater transparency,” says Eric Siegal, MD, chair of SHM’s Public Policy Committee. “In a very broad sense, physicians who agree to be listed on the Physician Compare site very clearly value transparency and quality of care. Their inclusion could be seen as a differentiator, though a small one.”
Another factor to consider regarding transparency: “Physician Compare is not just about patients,” Dr. Siegal points out. “Third-party payers will look at this, as well. If they’re looking for someone to help take care of their patients, this data might sway them in their decision.”