CMS announces ‘historic’ changes in 2019 MPFS proposed rule, 2019 QPP proposed rule

CMS announced several proposed changes this week—including changes to the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) and Quality Payment Program (QPP)—that it says are “historic” and “would fundamentally improve the nation’s healthcare system.”

The suggested changes included in the 2019 MPFS proposed rule would save physicians an estimated 51 hours of  year by reducing “unnecessary paperwork requirements,” according to a prepared statement from CMS. CMS says it has received feedback that electronic health records (EHRs) are too structured and impersonal now, not providing enough information about the patient’s specific situation. Through these proposed changes—which include simplifying documentation requirements for Evaluation and Management (E&M) office visits, reducing physician supervision of radiologist assistants and removing status reporting requirements for outpatient therapy—CMS believes EHRs could be used as “powerful tools that would actually support efficient care.”

Proposed changes to the MPFS also include updates that would put more focus on virtual care, paying clinicians for tasks such as evaluating patient-submitted photos. And another proposed change relates to how prescription drugs are paid for under Medicare Part B.

Changes included in the CY 2019 QPP proposed rule include removing Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) quality measures viewed as “low-value” or “low-priority” and working to put more emphasis on the support of improving EHR interoperability.

“Today’s reforms proposed by CMS bring us one step closer to a modern healthcare system that delivers better care for Americans at a lower cost,” Alex Azar, health and human services (HHS) secretary, said in the CMS statement. “Such a system requires empowering American patients by giving them price and quality transparency and control over their own interoperable health records, goals supported by CMS’s proposals. These proposals will also advance the successful Medicare Advantage program and accomplish a historic regulatory rollback to help physicians put patients over paperwork. Further, today’s proposed reforms to how CMS pays for medicine demonstrate the commitment of HHS to implementing President Trump’s blueprint for lowering drug prices.”

“Today’s proposals deliver on the pledge to put patients over paperwork by enabling doctors to spend more time with their patients,” Seema Verma, MPH, CMS administrator, said in the same statement. “Physicians tell us they continue to struggle with excessive regulatory requirements and unnecessary paperwork that steal time from patient care. This Administration has listened and is taking action.”

The CY 2019 MPFS proposed rule can be viewed here. The CY 2019 QPP proposed rule can be viewed here. Public comments are due to CMS by Sept. 10.

Stay tuned to Radiology Business for more information on these proposed rules and their potential impact on medical imaging providers.