Over the last several years, there has been a movement away from reimbursing health care practitioners based on the volume of services toward rewarding them for the quality or “value” of care provided.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 39 – No 02 – February 2020
The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) of 2015 accelerated health care payment reform efforts by establishing the Quality Payment Program (QPP), the main quality reporting program in Medicare. There are two tracks in the QPP: the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs). MIPS includes four performance categories: quality, cost, improvement activities, and promoting interoperability (formerly electronic health record “meaningful use”). Performance in these four categories (which are weighted) rolls up into an overall score that translates to a bonus that physicians receive on their Medicare payments two years after the performance period (for example, performance in 2020 impacts Medicare payments in 2022). Physicians and other health care practitioners who actively participate in certain Advanced APMs are exempt from MIPS and can receive a 5 percent payment bonus through 2024 and a higher payment fee schedule update starting in 2026.
Most emergency physicians participate in MIPS because there simply aren’t any opportunities to be in an Advanced APM. However, given the fundamental role emergency physicians play in our health care system, ACEP strongly believes that emergency physicians are well-positioned to be meaningful participants in APMs if given the opportunity.
Successful participation in MIPS has been a top priority for ACEP. In addition to working with the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) to simplify MIPS requirements, ACEP provides members with resources to ease the reporting process. Thousands of emergency physicians are now using ACEP’s Clinical Emergency Data Registry (CEDR) and participating in the Emergency Quality Network (E-QUAL) to meet reporting and attestation requirements.
A brief word about CEDR. It was developed as the first EM specialty-wide registry to measure acute care quality, outcomes, practice patterns, and trends in emergency care. The CEDR registry ensures that you, rather than other parties or payers, are identifying what works best for your clinical practice and patients. In 2018, 100 percent of CEDR customers were in a positive MIPS scoring bracket and 40 percent of customers’ quality scores were above 70, qualifying them for exceptional bonus. Learn more about CEDR.
And what is E-QUAL? The E-QUAL Network is a virtual learning community designed to accelerate knowledge translation by disseminating evidence-based practices in a low-burden, high-impact manner. Emergency departments participate in an E-QUAL initiative by joining a learning collaborative offered annually focusing on a single clinical topic. Each learning collaborative has a six- to nine-month learning period during which the ED champion interacts with the virtual E-QUAL portal and reports on local quality improvement activities. Activities include engaging eligible providers in the local quality improvement project and providing access to educational toolkits, webinars, podcasts, benchmarking data, and self-assessment tools. Participation in E-QUAL can earn clinicians improvement activity credit. Learn more about E-QUAL at www.acep.org/equal.
When MACRA passed, ACEP immediately identified the gap in available emergency medicine–focused Advanced APMs. In 2015, ACEP formed the APM Task Force co-chaired by Jeff Bettinger, MD, FACEP, and Randy Pilgrim, MD, FACEP. The task force reviewed various APM proposals and eventually developed the Acute Unscheduled Care Model (AUCM, fondly known as “Awesome”). In 2017, ACEP submitted the AUCM proposal to a federal advisory committee called the Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC) for consideration.
The PTAC is tasked with recommending physician-focused APM proposals to the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for consideration based on criteria established by the HHS secretary. Dr. Bettinger, Dr. Pilgrim, and Susan Nedza, MD, MBA, FACEP, presented the AUCM proposal before the PTAC on Sept. 6, 2018, and the PTAC recommended the AUCM to the HHS secretary for full implementation. The AUCM met all 10 of the established criteria, and the PTAC gave one of the criteria (scope) a “deserves priority consideration” designation since the PTAC felt the model filled an enormous gap in terms of available APMs to emergency physicians and groups.
A year later, on Sept. 27, 2019, the HHS secretary responded to the PTAC’s recommendation by stating he believes that core concepts of the AUCM should be incorporated into APMs being developed by the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Innovation (CMMI). The response paves the way for emergency physicians to finally be in a Medicare Advanced APM.