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AAFP: SGR Changes to Meaningful Use May Be an “Improvement”

By Jennifer Bresnick

The American Academy of Family Physicians is joining the growing number of organizations heartily approving Congressional action to restructure the way Medicare reimburses physicians and rewards them for high quality outcomes.  After endorsements from the AMA and ACPE, Board Chair Jeffrey J. Cain, MD, FAAFP released a public statement congratulating lawmakers on their “Herculean effort” to craft a proposal remedying a decade of uncertainty for the healthcare industry.

“We greatly appreciate the extensive work that this legislation represents and call for its immediate passage,” Cain writes of the bill that would not only do away with the yearly scramble to hold off a 25% Medicare reduction, but also helps to align several quality improvement programs, including the EHR Incentive Programs, into one bigger, more manageable task.  “The looming threat of frequent reductions also stifles innovation in care delivery and hinders the transformation of primary care practices.  Investments in process and quality improvement have proven difficult for most physicians under the current unpredictable payment structure.”

CMS has been introducing quality improvement programs at a fast clip since 2009, when meaningful use first came into the picture, and providers often complain about redundant reporting, confusing requirements, and time-consuming data collection that often doesn’t make sense for some specialists or hospital-based providers.  The legislation aims to consolidate the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), value-based modifier, and meaningful use into a new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).  “If this consolidation reduces the administrative duplication and paperwork burden that these three programs require,” Cain says, “then the MIPS will be an improvement in the health care delivery system.”

The legislation will also align Medicare reimbursements more closely with pay-for-performance standards and help providers with payments for services rendered in non-traditional settings, like through telehealth consults.  The accountable care provisions will be a big push for an industry already shifting towards patient-centered medicine, and will dangle greater financial incentives in front of providers who are interested in making the switch.

“There are always areas receptive to improvement in any legislation, but in our view this proposal would facilitate improvements in care delivery and encourage transformation of the Medicare physician payment system,” Cain writes.  “Much has been accomplished by the three committees who worked so diligently to draft this legislation and Congress should not squander the momentum established by delaying consideration of this important legislation. It is a remarkable accomplishment, and we applaud Congress for achieving this important compromise.”





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