CMS plans to give MIPS an overhaul


Changes are coming to the Merit-based Incentive Payment System track of the Quality Payment Program and officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services say these revisions are aimed at making the transition to value-based care easier for physicians.

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The new framework for the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) program was included as part of a proposed rule that updated both the physician fee schedule and the Quality Payment Program (QPP) for 2020. The proposed rule was posted online July 29, 2019, and is scheduled for publication in the Federal Register on Aug. 14. Comments on the rule are due on Sept. 27.

“We are overhauling the Merit-based Incentive Payment System to reduce reporting burden, making sure the measures relevant to clinicians as they move toward value-based care,” CMS Administrator Seema Verma said during a July 29 press conference. “Clinicians will now report on fewer, more meaningful measures that are aligned to their specialty or practice area, making it easier to participate in MIPS. We are looking for the public’s input on this new framework so that we can build a better program together.”

CMS is proposing a new conceptual framework called MIPS Value Pathways (MVPs), which would apply to future proposals beginning in the 2021 performance year.

“The goal is to move away from siloed activities and measures and more towards an aligned set of measure options more relevant to a clinician’s scope of practice that is meaningful to patient care,” the CMS said in a fact sheet highlighting the changes.

The framework would align and connect measures across the four performance categories (quality, cost, promoting interoperability, and improvement activities) and there would be MVP measures for different specialties.

“A clinician or group would be in one MVP associated with their specialty or with a condition, reporting on the same measures and activities as other clinicians and groups in that MVP,” according to the fact sheet.

As part of the proposed framework, the CMS aims to provide “enhanced data and feedback to clinicians.”

In the meantime, the agency is proposing other updates to the program, including adjustments to the weighting of the performance category in 2020. The quality category would drop from 45% to 40%, while the cost category would rise from 15% to 20%. No changes in the weighting of the interoperability (25%) and improvement activities (15%) are proposed.

A number of measures are altered in each of the performance categories, such as increasing the data completeness requirement in the quality category from reporting on 60% of Medicare Part B patients to 70%, changes to patient-centered medical home criteria in the improvement activities performance category, and requiring a yes/no response to the query of the Prescription Drug Monitoring Program measure in the promoting interoperability category.

The range of adjustment, by statute for the 2020 performance year, will go up to 9% (plus or minus) depending on the MIPS scoring, expanding from the 7% (plus or minus) range in the 2019 performance year.

A number of provisions of the Quality Payment Program program are proposed to have no change, including the low-volume threshold and opt-in policy, the MIPS performance period, and EHR certification requirements. No quality measures were changed based on changes to clinical guidelines.

The American Medical Association voiced support for the proposal.

“The AMA commends CMS for requesting input on a simplified option that would give physicians the choice to focus on episodes of care rather than following the current, more fragmented approach,” AMA President Patrice Harris, MD, said in a statement. “Making MIPS more clinically relevant and less burdensome is a top priority for the AMA and we believe CMS is taking an important step toward this goal.”

However, AMGA had a different take, expressing concern that MIPS is not becoming a pathway to value-based care.

The group, which represents multispecialty medical groups and integrated health systems, noted that, while the statutory range for bonus payments may be expanding, CMS is estimating that overall payment adjustment will be only 1.4%.

“In light of this significantly reduced adjustment, AMGA is concerned that MIPS is no longer a transition tool to value-based care, but instead represents a regulatory burden that does not support physician group practices and integrated systems of care that are investing in delivery models based on care coordination and improving population health,” AMGA said in a statement. “In addition, this adjustment undermines the intent of Congress to use MACRA [Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act] to move the health care system to value-based payment.”

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