WASHINGTON – As unpopular as the new Quality Payment Program may be, repealing all or part of it at this stage will be a tough sell.
That was the message heard by members of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) during public comments at their Jan. 11 meeting. Comments followed a 14-2 vote by commissioners in favor of recommending that Congress scrap the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) track of the QPP.
“We do agree that there are problems with MIPS,” said Sharon McIlrath, assistant director of federal affairs and coalitions at the American Medical Association. “We would like to fix it rather than kill it, and partly that’s because we don’t want to send shifting messages to physicians. Are they going to invest in building an infrastructure on shifting ground?”
She also questioned whether this proposal could gain any traction at all in Congress.
“We don’t think that it is politically viable to think that you are going to go up there and get the Hill to kill MIPS,” she said.
The Alliance of Specialty Medicine in a Jan. 9 letter to MedPAC also voiced its objections to the commission’s plan to recommend the end of MIPS.
“Our efforts to work with CMS and congressional leaders to improve MIPS and allow for more meaningful and robust engagement are ongoing. We urge you to withdraw your forthcoming recommendation, which diminishes the important role of specialty medicine in Medicare,” alliance members wrote to MedPAC Chairman Francis J. Crosson, MD. “Instead, the commission and staff, under your leadership, should work toward a new recommendation that would improve aspects of the MIPS program that remain a challenge for all clinicians.”
MedPAC had been working on its recommendations regarding MIPS since the program was launched, but ultimately came to the conclusion that it was not fixable. During a presentation on the draft recommendation, MedPAC staff listed a variety of reasons why MIPS “cannot succeed,” including how it replicates flaws of previous value-based purchasing plans and is burdensome and complex, the information reported is not meaningful, scores are not comparable across clinicians, and the payment adjustments, while minimal early on, could vary widely from year to year with even the smallest of MIPS score changes.
Instead, current draft MedPAC recommendations put forward a voluntary value program (VVP) to replace MIPS. VVP would withhold a specific percentage of Medicare pay for physicians who are not involved in a QPP advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM).
Physicians would be able to earn back the withheld pay, plus be eligible for potential bonuses by voluntarily participating in virtual groups. Those groups would be scored on population-based measures.
As was the case across previous meetings where this was discussed, commissioners David Nerenz, PhD, of the Henry Ford Health System of Detroit, and Alice Coombs, MD, of South Shore Hospital, Weymouth, Mass., continued to voice their objections about repealing MIPS and ultimately voted against the recommendation.
The MIPS recommendation will be included in MedPAC’s June report to Congress; it then will be up to Congress to decide whether to act on it.