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Physician groups call for CMS to drop E/M proposal


 

More than 170 physician groups are calling on the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services to withdraw a provision in the proposed 2019 physician fee schedule that would flatten evaluation and management payments.

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The controversial proposal would set the payment rate for a level 1 evaluation and management (E/M) office visit for a new patient at $44, down from the $45 using the current methodology. Payment for levels 2-5 would be $135. Currently, payments for level 2 new patient visits are set at $76, level 3 at $110, level 4 at $167, and level 5 at $211.

For E/M office visits with established patients, the proposed rate would be $24 for level 1, up from the current payment of $22. Payment for levels 2-5 would be $93. Under the current methodology, payments for established patient level 2 visits are set at $45, level 3 at $74, level 4 at $109, and level 5 at $148.

In an Aug. 28 letter to the CMS, led by the American College of Rheumatology, physician groups applauded CMS recognition of the problems with the current E/M documentation guidelines and codes, but urged them to reconsider plans to “cut and consolidate evaluation and management services.” Doing so would “severely reduce Medicare patients’ access to care by cutting payments for complex office visits, adversely effecting the care and treatment of patients with complex conditions, and potentially exacerbate physician workforce shortages.”

A separate letter, led by the American Medical Association, made similar assertions that the current proposal has the potential to “hurt physicians and other health care professionals in specialties that treat the sickest patients, as well as those who provide comprehensive primary care, ultimately jeopardizing patients’ access to care.”

Daniel P. McQuillen, MD, of Lahey Hospital and Medical Center, Burlington, Mass. and member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America, said that IDSA is “worried that the implementation is being pushed ahead too fast without really considering whether it’s the right way of doing it and whether there might be some alternative ways of doing it that make more sense.”

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