On October 14, 2016, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) released its final rule implementing the new Quality Payment Program for physicians in lieu of the repealed sustainable growth rate factor (SGR). Rather than facing substantial annual reductions in Medicare payment fees as a result of the SGR, physicians now have two interrelated pathways to earn quality-based, cost efficient incentive payments under Medicare:  the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or Advanced Alternative Payment Models (Advanced APMs). MIPS consolidates three existing quality-based incentives programs – the Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS), the Physician Value-based Payment Modifier (VM), and the Medicare Electronic Health Record (EHR) Incentive Program – while maintaining an ongoing focus on achieving quality and cost efficiencies through use of certified EHR technology (CEHRT).

Continue Reading CMS publishes Final MACRA Rule for MIPS and APM Incentives

State plans must consider impact of provider rates on beneficiary access

US Supreme Court says providers cannot challenge Medicaid payment rates in a court of law

Physicians under Iowa’s Medicaid program consistently provide quality medical care to our State’s 560,000 Medicaid beneficiaries despite payment rates that, according to the Iowa Medical Society, are nearly the same as rates paid to physicians in 2000. IA Health Link requires Medicaid’s four contracted managed care organizations (MCOs) to pay physicians no less than the Medicaid fee-for-service rates in effect on July 1, 2015; Medicaid-enrolled providers who do not sign with an MCO suffer a 10% out-of-network reduction in payment rates. In 2016, physicians again will petition the Iowa General Assembly for a Medicaid rate increase, an ask that may be at odds with the substantial cost-savings goal of IA Health Link.

Continue Reading CMS REQUIRES MEDICAID PROGRAMS ACCESS MONITORING PLANS BY JULY 1, 2016

On Monday, August 17, 2015, the Iowa Department of Human Services (DHS) issued a Notice of Intent to Award contracts to four (4) bidders to serve as contractors under the Iowa Medicaid Modernization initiative. Those selected are: Amerigroup Iowa, Inc.; AmeriHealth Caritas Iowa, Inc.; UnitedHealthcare Plan of the River Valley, Inc.; and Wellcare of Iowa, Inc.  DHS’ announcement stated that these four entities demonstrated abilities to manage care provided to Medicaid beneficiaries under this risk-based approach to Iowa’s Medicaid program. This new initiative has been named IA Health Link and is slated for implementation effective January 1, 2016.

Iowa Medicaid currently serves approximately 560,000 Iowans. DHS states that Iowa Medicaid program costs have grown 73 percent since 2003. “Starting January 1, these experienced MCOs [managed care organizations] are positioned to help us achieve savings at a time when there is an ever growing demand on our state’s medical assistance program,” DHS Director Chuck Palmer stated.

Information about the Iowa Medicaid Modernization initiative is available from DHS at http://dhs.iowa.gov/ime/about/initiatives/MedicaidModernization. To help prepare its physician members for this major transition, the Iowa Medical Society has developed a webinar and other educational resources available through its website at www.iowamedical.org.