PCPs: Be on the lookout for incentive checks

Another reason to look forward to spring, if you're a primary-care physician: Those who qualify for primary care incentive payments under the new health law should expect to see their first bonus checks arrive in their offices sometime after March 31.

The incentive program, designed to bolster the nation's dwindling primary care workforce, calls for bonus payments equal to 10 percent of a primary care health professional's allowed charges under Medicare Part B for primary care services provided between Jan. 1, 2011, and Jan. 1, 2016.

According to an update from AAFP News Now, physicians whose primary care billings comprise at least the required 60 percent of their total Medicare allowed charges needn't take any action but wait for payment to arrive, as CMS has already identified, using 2009 data, names and national provider identifiers for doctors set to qualify for 2011 bonuses. CMS will pass that information along to Medicare administrative contractors before Jan. 31 of each incentive year.

However, Cynthia Hughes, CPC, advised the American Academy of Family Physicians that all primary-care physicians should ask their Medicare contractors for a list of PCPs eligible for a bonus in 2011. While the most obvious reason a physician wouldn't be on the list is not meeting the minimum 60 percent, it's also possible that an incorrect taxonomy code indicating the physician's specialty could cause a glitch. "If a physician doesn't see his or her name on that list and thinks he or she is qualified, then a phone call to the Medicare contract administrator is in order," Hughes said.

Practices that do receive their bonus checks as anticipated will still need to determine how to distribute the funds. Bruce Bagley, MD, the AAFP's medical director of quality improvement, suspects that the majority of bonus checks will get funneled into general practice revenue rather than be distributed to individual physicians in the practice. Hughes added that some practices indicated to her that they'd put the checks toward the purchase of an electronic health record.

To learn more:
- read the piece from AAFP News Now