The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission voted 14-2 to repeal and replace a Medicare payment system that aims to improve the quality of patient care. Providers immediately slammed the move.
To avoid penalties under MACRA, physicians must follow one of two payment tracks: the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, or MIPS, or advanced alternative payment models like accountable care organizations.
On Thursday, the Commission voted to asks Congress to eliminate MIPS and establish a new voluntary value program in which clinicians join a group and are compared to each other on the quality of care for patients. Physicians who perform well would receive an incentive payment. The suggestion will be published in the advisory group’s annual March report to Congress.
MedPAC wants to junk MIPS because it believes the system is too burdensomefor physicians and won’t push them to improve care. Members have criticized the program’s design for primarily measuring how doctors perform, including whether they ordered appropriate tests or followed general clinical guidelines, rather than if patient care was ultimately improved by that provider’s actions.
The CMS estimates that up to 418,000 physicians will be submitting 2017 MIPS data.
Prior to the vote, the majority of the debate centered on whether or not MedPac had developed an adequate replacement for MIPS.
David Nerenz, one of the no votes, said he was against the replacement because he worried that only providers with healthy patients would ban together, while those with high risk patients would face difficulty finding anyone to partner with.
He also said evidence was lacking that the group reporting approach would be an effective way to hold providers accountable for quality.
Dr. Alice Coombs, a commissioner and critical-care specialist at Milton Hospital and South Shore Hospital in Weymouth, Mass., was the other no vote. She said she was against getting rid of MIPS as providers are just now getting used to it. Those concerns increased when MedPac staff noted that MIPS repeal likely wouldn’t take place until 2019 or 2020 depending when or if Congress accepted its recommendation.
Warner Thomas, a commissioner and CEO of the Ochsner Health System in New Orleans, LA voted yes, but said he did so with some trepidation as MedPac had not received comments from industry that they were supportive of what the Commission was doing in terms of repealing and replacing MIPS.
“There hasn’t been any support from the physician community around this, and we should be cautioned by that fact,” Thomas said.
Clinicians and providers criticized MedPac following the vote.
“I think they’re wrong,” Dr. Stephen Epstein, an emergency physician at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston said in a tweet. “MIPS could change practice patterns by aligning incentives with performance measures.”
The Medical Group Management Association said it did not support the Commission’s suggestion for a replacement to MIPS.
“It would conscript physician groups into virtual groups and evaluate them on broad claims-based measures which is inconsistent with the congressional intent in MACRA to put physicians in the driver seat of Medicare’s transition from volume to value,” Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs at MGMA said in a statement.