When it comes to MACRA, don’t take your foot off the gas


Just because Medicare has given physician practices more options in how to implement the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), they shouldn’t back off in their preparations for the new payment system, says Elizabeth Woodcock, a speaker and author.

Under growing industry pressure, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced late last week it would offer flexibility to physician practices in implementing MACRA in the form of four different “pick their pace” options.

But physicians can't let their feet off the gas pedal, writes Woodcock in a Woodcock & Associates announcement. MACRA isn’t going away, she says, and practices should continue their efforts to report on what she calls the four “pillars” of the MACRA program: quality, resource use, meaningful use and clinical practice improvement. MACRA is set to take effect on Jan. 1, 2017.

“Even with some flexibility in 2017, the ship has already sailed,” she says. “The government is--and will continue to--gather data about your medical practice and administer financial consequences should the results not be within the parameters established for their expectations.”

The news that CMS will ease up reporting requirements in the first year of MACRA was welcome news to physician groups, including the Medical Group Management Association and the American Medical Association. While CMS will allow physicians to avoid a negative payment adjustment by simply testing their system under MACRA, the groups still hope for more changes to the program when CMS issues a final rule this fall.  

AMA president Andrew W. Gurman, M.D., said the flexibility offered by CMS will help give physicians “a fair shot” in the first year of MACRA implementation. "This approach better reflects the diversity of medical practices throughout the country,” he said in an announcement, adding that the AMA hopes to work with the government on other efforts to get MACRA off to a successful start.

But not everyone was happy about CMS’ action. The AMGA, a trade association focused on transforming the country’s healthcare, said while the change is especially important for small provider groups to meet MACRA’s reporting requirements, it may penalize high-performing providers.

 “Our membership is deeply concerned that the creation of these new reporting options will have the unintended result of penalizing the very provider groups that have made the largest investments to meet MACRA’s goals of better quality, improved clinical practice activities, better use of electronic medical records and lower resource use,” said AMGA’s president and CEO Donald W. Fisher, Ph.D., in an announcement.