The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has released the 2021 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) proposed rule, which will affect emergency medicine reimbursement significantly. Following a commentary period lasting until Oct. 5, 2020, CMS is expected to issue its final PFS rule, which will impact services beginning Jan. 1, 2021.
Explore This IssueACEP Now: Vol 39 – No 09 – September 2020
Here are some highlights from this year’s PFS rule. A longer summary is available here.
2021 RVUs Increase for ED E/M Services
Acting to protect the safety net, ACEP asked CMS to recognize the intensity of ED services and maintain the relativity between the ED evaluation and management (E/M) codes and the new patient office codes. Even though the ED codes received increases of about 5 percent for code levels 1–4 in 2020, CMS has accepted our arguments and agreed to increase the ED relative value units (RVUs) for 99283–99285 again in 2021 (see Table 1).
Table 1: 2021 Proposed Increases to ED Work RVUs
|2020 Work RVUs||2021 Proposed Work RVUs||% Increase in Work RVUs in 2020|
2021 Conversion Factor Decrease
For 2021, CMS proposes a Medicare PFS conversion factor of $32.26, a 10.6 percent decrease from the 2020 conversion factor of $36.09. This historic decrease was due to the CMS decision to increase reimbursement for the office visit codes, a boon for urgent care (which reports using office codes). However, this increased spending triggered a significant “budget neutrality adjustment,” as required by law. However, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and the stresses placed on the whole house of medicine, Congress may waive the budget neutrality requirements, which could shield us from this significant potential decrease.
Due to the budget neutrality adjustment in the conversion factor for the whole house of medicine, emergency medicine could see as much as a 6 percent net decrease. ACEP has mounted a vigorous campaign to protect the safety net and is urging Congress to support the conversion factor at current levels (see “Advocate to Waive Budget Neutrality” for more on this effort).
Table 2: MIPS Performance Category Weighting in Final Score
ED Continued Traction with Telehealth Services
CMS is examining which of the codes that are temporarily on the list of approved Medicare telehealth services during the COVID-19 public health emergency will remain on the list permanently. CMS is proposing to keep ED E/M code levels 1–3 (CPT codes 99281–99283) on the approved telehealth list for the remainder of the year after the public health emergency expires. However, CMS is not proposing to include ED E/M code levels 4 and 5 (CPT codes 99284 and 99285) on the list of approved Medicare services past the duration of the public health emergency, citing these services as too intense to be routinely performed via telehealth.