• CMS Releases Planned Changes for 2019 Medicare Payments

    AAFP Races to Review Proposal for Medicare Physician Fee Schedule, Quality Payment Program

    July 13, 2018 04:13 pm News Staff – CMS traditionally releases an annual document on physician payment in mid-summer, and right on schedule, the agency has posted its proposed rule for the 2019 Medicare physician fee schedule. The proposal includes recommendations for updating Medicare payment rates and policies beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019.

    In a new twist this year, CMS combined the Medicare physician fee schedule proposed rule with recommendations for the Quality Payment Program (QPP), which is soon to enter its third year. The entire proposed rule, now just a review copy, will be officially published in the Federal Register on July 27.

    Family physicians can began wading through the 1,400-plus page proposal, or let the AAFP tackle that time-consuming task. Experienced staff members already are deciphering the details with family medicine priorities in mind. Stay tuned for the release of an executive summary in coming days.

    In addition, the AAFP will send its official letter regarding the proposed rule -- including comments about what it likes and what needs fixing -- before CMS' Sept. 10 deadline.

    According to a July 12 press release from CMS, the changes aim, among other things, to streamline clinician billing processes and expand patient access to high-quality health care.

    "Today's proposals deliver on the pledge to put patients over paperwork by enabling doctors to spend more time with their patients," CMS Administrator Seema Verma, M.P.H., said in the release. She said the agency hears from physicians who argue that unrelenting regulatory requirements and mountains of paperwork "steal time from patient care."

    Verma said CMS' proposed changes to both the physician fee schedule and the QPP would address those problems head-on by modernizing payment policies.

    For example, fee schedule recommendations include reducing documentation requirements for evaluation and management services and giving stronger support for telecommunications technology as a means of improving access to care.

    Proposed changes to the QPP would reduce clinician burden, focus on outcomes and promote electronic health record interoperability.

    CMS also posted separate fact sheets on the physician fee schedule and the QPP.