What You Need to Know About the Physician Feedback/Value-Based Payment Modifier Program

Via CMS.gov

What?
The Physician Feedback/Value-Based Payment Modifier Program provides comparative performance information to physicians and medical practice groups, as part of Medicare’s efforts to improve the quality and efficiency of medical care.  By providing meaningful and actionable information to physicians so they can improve the care they deliver, CMS is moving toward physician reimbursement that rewards value rather than volume.

The Program (which is specific to Fee-For-Service Medicare—not Medicare Advantage) contains two primary components:

  • The Physician Quality and Resource Use Reports (QRURs, or sometimes referred to as “the Reports”) Select “QRUR Templates…” option from the menu on the left side of the page
  • Development and implementation of a Value-based Payment Modifier (value modifier)

Select “Value-based Payment Modifier” from the options on the left side of the page.

Why? 
This program supports the transformation of Medicare from a passive payer to an active purchaser of higher quality, more efficient health care through the value-based purchasing (VBP) initiative.  Physician feedback reporting was initiated under Section 131 of the Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008 (MIPPA), and was expanded by section 3003 of the Affordable Care Act of 2010. The Affordable Care Act directed CMS to provide information to physicians and medical practice groups about the resources used and quality of care provided to their Medicare Fee-For-Service patients, including quantification and comparisons of patterns of resource use/cost among physicians and medical practice groups. Most resource use and quality information in the QRURs is displayed as relative comparisons of performance among similar physicians or groups.  Section 3007 of the Affordable Care Act mandated that, by 2015, CMS begin applying a value modifier under the Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS).  Both cost and quality data are to be included in calculating payments for physicians. By 2017, the Value-based Payment Modifier is to be applied to all physicians who bill Medicare for services provided under the physician fee schedule.

READ ON

Closely Monitoring the 26.5% Medicare Physician Payment Threat

Via HCMA, SGR Advocacy Alert from the AMA – – – –  The negotiations between Speaker Boehner and President Obama on the Lame Duck tax and deficit reduction package are at an impasse. There is a very real threat of the 26.5 percent Medicare physician payment cut taking effect on January 1, 2013, at least temporarily.

If Congress does adjourn without addressing the payment cut being induced by the sustainable growth rate (SGR) formula, the Administration announced today that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will follow normal claims processing procedures.

That is, claims will not be held and Medicare carriers will process payments for physician services provided after December 31 under the normal 14-day cycle required by law.  Payment for these claims would be based on the new, lower fee schedule conversion factor of $25.0008, as opposed to the current rate of $34.0376.

At this time, it is impossible to predict whether the 112th Congress will find a way to pass a stop-gap measure before adjourning, how long such a measure would last, or how long payment cuts will be in effect before legislation can be passed after the 113th Congress convenes in January.  It is highly unusual for a new Congress to enact significant legislation in the first month of its session, but the circumstances facing our nation today are far from typical.

It is inexcusable that Congress is once again putting the 47 million Medicare patients and the practices of physicians who provide them needed health care at significant risk.  The Medicare program has become unreliable and its instability undermines efforts by physicians to implement new health care delivery models that stand to improve value for seniors and other beneficiaries through better care coordination, chronic disease management, and keeping patients healthy.

The AMA believes that the financial disruption this situation will cause for physicians and their practices is unacceptable, and we will continue to fervently convey this message in the strongest possible terms to Congress and the Administration, as we have for the past several weeks.  Our patient and physician grassroots networks have been activated, and we are seeking your voices to tell Congress just how deeply its inaction will affect you.

Despite these efforts, at this time we feel compelled to advise physicians to start making plans for steps they can take to mitigate this disruption and meet their own financial obligations in January, in case the 26.5 percent cut actually takes effect.  Given the potential impact on practice revenue in early January, physicians should be certain adequate arrangements are in place to sustain their practices.  For those physicians who are forced into the untenable position of limiting their involvement with the Medicare program because it threatens the viability of their practices, we urge that patients be notified promptly so that they, too, can explore other options to seek health care and medical treatment.

Florida Board of Medicine Set to Tackle Telemedicine Issue

Florida laws that pertain to telemedicine are precious few.  In fact, there is really only one regulation dead on target, and that requires face to face physician contact with a patient in order to write a prescription.  The impact of the hormone replacement therapy (HRT) providers was pretty immediate, but the legal issues related to telemedicine are just not currently addressed in Florida law.  Does providing a telemedicine consult create a physician patient relationship?  What are the requirements related to the medical records arising out of the consult, and who owns the records?  These issues and many more are simply not handled.  And yet, if it is true that telemedicine will be an important tool in the effort to both broaden the availability of care while reducing associated costs, we can be sure that Florida law will evolve on these issues. Continue reading

Perceived Risk Outweighs Actual Harm in Assessing $1.5M HIPAA Fine

The Office of Civil Rights’ recent assessment of a $1.5 million fine for HIPAA violations should be a shrill wakeup call to all health care organizations that use (or allow their physicians to use) portable devices containing patient identifiable information.  The sanction stems from a physician’s lost laptop computer containing protected health information (ePHI).

Importantly, the OCR’s investigation could not establish whether ePHI was used or even accessed, partly because the device was lost in a foreign country.  However, it was not necessary to definitively conclude if any data had been compromised; the OCR was more concerned that the offending provider had not implemented appropriate measures mandated by the HIPAA Security Rule which could have reduced, mitigated or eliminated the risk altogether.  For the OCR, the heart of the matter was the fact that the covered entity failed to fully assess and evaluate the risk to the confidentiality and security of ePHI on portable devices used by its physicians in their personal activities, and failed to have a process to address when such devices are lost.  In this case, it was the incident itself that caused the organization to formalize and take responsive measures.  The barn door was closed after the horse got out.  To the OCR, the covered entity’s reactive, rather than proactive approach, was totally at odds with HIPAA Security Rule concerns and the mandated obligations of covered entities.

The facts are fairly simple.  A research physician from a Massachusetts specialty hospital facility was traveling to South Korea to give a lecture when he misplaced his backpack in a public area.  A personal laptop, containing health information of several thousand patients, was in the backpack.  The computer was eventually “detected” a few weeks later when it was connected to the internet, and its hard drive was later remotely “wiped”, however, the device was not recovered.  The incident was then reported to the OCR in accordance with the breach notification requirements of the HIPAA Security Rule.

This is an instructive case for a number of reasons.  For one, it is important to recognize that the OCR’s investigation was prompted by the obligatory “breach notification” it received from the provider.  The OCR’s inevitable investigation in turn revealed that there was significant noncompliance with multiple aspects of the Security Rule.  Notably, the OCR determined that the covered entity had lax control over, and little knowledge concerning its own physicians’ use of laptops issued to them by the organization.  Physicians were permitted unfettered access to the entity’s information, took their devices off-site where they were used for personal activities, and could remotely download information and install applications freely to these personal devices.  Further, while the laptop in question was password protected and had “LoJak” tracking and wiping software, encryption was not employed.  Further, many weeks passed before a hard drive wipe was effectuated and only after it was determined that the device had been connected to the internet.  In short, the OCR concluded that the entity had neither conducted an adequate security assessment nor established necessary policies or procedures addressing laptop use, and had not promulgated an appropriate response procedure.  Instead, it reacted to the lost laptop in a scramble of ad hoc activity and only instituted organization-wide changes as a result of this episode.

The most significant issue for the OCR in assessing a $1.5 million fine was not whether the incident caused actual harm to any patient, but the degree of risk of potential harm and whether reasonable steps and safeguards should have been in place to mitigate any data breach.  In short, the entity should have anticipated laptops would be lost and it should have addressed the attendant risks through a deliberate process and in a manner that is “situationally” appropriate for the organization.  Here, the organization abrogated such a duty, thus prompting a fine that may be disproportional to the perceived harm.  This outcome should prompt providers to seriously regard the HIPAA Security Rule, and the OCR’s enforcement efforts, and to abandon any “no harm, no foul” notions they might apply when security breaches occur and must be reported

From Intervention to Prevention

“Healthcare Reform,” “PPACA” and “ACOs” all have one certain thing in common:  cost-saving change.  Though debate swirls about politics, timing and the particulars of change, it seems clear that the changing demographics of our country (aging baby boomers) in our economic climate is not sustainable as is.  And it’s no surprise that a compensation system based on how much is done and how much it costs leads to greater expense.  An economic reward system that drives costs up as more and more people are set to join the ranks of the insured (through mandated health insurance and expanded Medicaid) simply underscores the timing of the change.  What does that mean for physicians?

Physicians are asking three key questions:

  1. Is there a future for small or solo practices?
  2. Is fee for service really gonna change?
  3. What can I do right now to adapt?

The Future of the Small Practice

The only solid answer is “less.”  It really depends on complex things like the demographics of where the doctor practices and the number of competitors close by.  That said, as change happens, the hardest hit will likely be the smaller practices, since they lack the personnel and financial resources to weather the change and to invest in adaptation.  Many small practices will likely experience change in such a way that the best they can hope for is to survive, rather than thrive.  Even worse, solo practitioners already know what it’s like to handle all the duties as a physician, keep track of business operations and keep the patients flowing into the practice.  Exhausting.  Without substantial support and resources, it’s just not realistic for most solos to expect to keep up.

Even larger practices are not often run like a business.  The professionals that generate the revenue often manage as well.  Moreover, most medical practices do not market or do any serious “back office” magic (revenue cycle management).  As such, change hits small practices especially hard.  Implementing even new EHR requirements can be consuming for a small practice.  How will it be as changes are made to reduce cost and improve quality?  How will it be when practices begin to see there is opportunity in change, that they may actually make more money in a risk based compensation environment?  Rougher.  Like a herd of buffalo when attacked, circling together is a good strategy.

That said, the vision has to be clear.  Why circle together?  Most medical practices are combining and growing to guard market share, not to manage costs or measure and demonstrate quality.  This is probably the biggest reason why we see larger practices in single specialties, not multi-specialty or primary/specialty based practices.  Most physicians that are adapting by joining larger practices are doing so for the same reason why buffalos circle together—the threat of change.  Though size alone is no panacea, larger practices are definitely in a better position to adapt.

Let’s face it:  few are running after change in healthcare right now.  Few see the opportunity and are leading the charge.  Most are waiting or are just setting the stage.  And most large practices are, at best, a good platform where change can be implemented and costs can be shared and spread among a larger pool.

Will There be a Change to Fee for Service Payment?

Yep.  Simple as that.  It’s already happening.  Bundled payments are in place, even in Florida.  Capitation is old hat for many now.

When?  Over time…  Not right away.  Even ACOs aspirants are selecting just one sided risk, testing the water as they see how well they do to reduce costs, improve quality and “earn” their right to bonus money.  Physicians that think fee for service will thrive for decades are kidding themselves, at least in the insured market.  Is there a basis for it in a “second tier” or concierge sort of environment?  Probably.

What Can I Do Right Now?

First, accept that we are approaching a new paradigm of healthcare delivery.  The current model of disease/injury crisis management has prepared no one for the move from intervention to prevention.  And yet, systems that are solidly based in wellness and prevention stand to profit most from the change we all face.

Second, look to shore up you business model.  That means:

  1. Look to join a larger practice that is committed to thriving in the future risk-based compensation scenario.  If the practice is there just to thrive in a fee for service environment and has no commitment to thriving in a risk based compensation model, keep looking;
  2. Market.  Most practices do not market at all, and yet consumers are selecting medical care in the most unlikely environment—the internet;
  3. Look at anything concierge-like.  Most of the public conversation centers around the insured market, mostly the Medicare Shared Savings Program (which has spawned the ACO concept).  What about the rest of the consumers?  As the insured market gets squeezed (remember that consumers are feeling the pressure too with heightened copays, deductibles and benefit limits), you can expect growth of the “second tier,” those who want more and are willing to pay for it;
  4. Build in wellness and prevention.  Not all practices lend themselves to wellness related services that can reduce healthcare costs, but those that do must look at ways to offer cost-saving, wellness and prevention-oriented services;
  5. Enlist the patients.  The concept of “partnering” with patients is strange, but consider the amount of savings and the enhancement of outcomes if physicians could incentivize healthy patient behavior.  Though absent from the public policy conversation, health care businesses that build in patient accountability stand to win big in a payment system that rewards clinical outcomes and cost savings.

Change is frightening.  Even “good” change is frightening.  Just look at all the upset stomach meds sold at airport kiosk counters.  Physicians have a terrific burden at this time.  They not only hold our health in their hands.  They are expected to have skills and time to help create a new environment in which care will be delivered.  Denying change in the healthcare sector is a waste of time and energy.  Looking for ways to thrive in it and even drive it is wise.

The Florida Healthcare Law Firm Goes National

Followers & Friends – BIG Announcement coming out today! If you haven’t seen our new NATIONAL platform, check it out here at http://www.nationalhealthcarelawfirm.com and stay tuned for our #healthcare #legal news at 2pm EST !!!

Supreme Court upholds Obama health care law

Via @USAToday

The Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law today in a splintered, complex opinion that gives Obama a major election-year victory.

Basically. the justices said that the individual mandate — the requirement that most Americans buy health insurance or pay a fine — is constitutional as a tax.

Chief Justice John Roberts — a conservative appointed by President George W. Bush — provided the key vote to preserve the landmark health care law, which figures to be a major issue in Obama’s re-election bid against Republican opponent Mitt Romney.

The government had argued that Congress had the authority to pass the individual mandate as part of its power to regulate interstate commerce; the court disagreed with that analysis, but preserved the mandate because the fine amounts to a tax that is within Congress’ constitutional taxing powers.

The announcement will have a major impact on the nation’s health care system, the actions of both federal and state governments, and the course of the November presidential and congressional elections.

A key question for the high court: The law’s individual mandate, the requirement that nearly all Americans buy health insurance, or pay a penalty.

Critics call the requirement an unconstitutional overreach by Congress and the Obama administration; supporters say it is necessary to finance the health care plan, and well within the government’s powers under the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

While the individual mandate remained 18 months away from implementation, many other provisions already have gone into effect, such as free wellness exams for seniors and allowing children up to age 26 to remain on their parents’ health insurance policies. Some of those provisions are likely to be retained by some insurance companies.

Other impacts will sort themselves out, once the court rules:

— Health care millions of Americans will be affected – coverage for some, premiums for others. Doctors, hospitals, drug makers, insurers, and employers large and small all will feel the impact.

— States — some of which have moved ahead with the health care overhaul while others have held back — now have decisions to make. A deeply divided Congress could decide to re-enter the debate with legislation.

— The presidential race between Obama and Republican challenger Mitt Romney is sure to feel the repercussions. Obama’s health care law has proven to be slightly more unpopular than popular among Americans.

Full Story Here: http://content.usatoday.com/communities/theoval/post/2012/06/Supreme-Court-rules-on-Obama-health-care-plan-718037/1#.T-xqPhd5F9E

The Florida Healthcare Law Firm Announces National Expansion

(Delray Beach, FL) June 21st, 2012 – The Florida Healthcare Law Firm, one of Florida’s leading healthcare law firms, today announced a major increase in their legal practice capabilities with the official launch of the National Healthcare Law Firm, a d/b/a and new portal of the firm. The expansion to a national platform providing healthcare legal services to physicians and healthcare businesses is one that significantly increases resources for clients who lack qualified local healthcare counsel. While the Florida Healthcare Law Firm has for years assisted clients outside the state of Florida*, this new development further cements the firm’s commitment to providing ethical legal counsel in the healthcare industry.

“We are very excited about it. The fact that we serve clients all over the country has been a small secret for a while but we realized there’s a huge demand and decided to just go for it,” said Jeffrey L. Cohen, Esq. Founder and President of Florida Healthcare Law Firm.

According to Cohen, “It’s just a strange area of the law.  Nearly everything in healthcare business is regulated; leases, employment agreements, compensation.  Things you wouldn’t think are regulated are strongly regulated.  And there are large fines and criminal penalties for getting it wrong!  Our clients understand that healthcare business of any kind has serious legal risks and that they need uniquely qualified help.”

To request a service list or for any other firm information, call Autumn Piccolo at 888-455-7702 or visit the firm’s website at www.nationalhealthcarelawfirm.com or www.floridahealthcarelawfirm.com

*     *     *

Acknowledged throughout the country for its service and excellence, Florida Healthcare Law Firm is one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare legal services. Founded by Jeffrey L. Cohen, Esq and headquartered in South Florida, FHLF provides legal services to physicians and healthcare businesses with the right pricing responsiveness and ethics. From healthcare clinic regulation, home health agency representation and physician contracting to medical practice formation/representation and federal and state compliance matters, the Florida Healthcare Law Firm is committed to bringing knowledge and experience to a diverse group of clients.

10 Lesser Known Effects of Healthcare Reform Law

This is a great article published by CNN this morning.

View it in it’s entirety Here

(CNN) — On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court takes on a political, social, economic and medical hot potato: the health care reform law that was signed into law two years ago.

For six hours during each of the next three days, attorneys will argue and justices will consider legal questions about the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate and issues surrounding federal versus state powers.

Read a transcript of Monday’s Supreme Court arguments

Many of the law’s major aspects have been the topic of much discussion. But are you aware that deep within the sweeping law’s 2,700 pages are many lesser known changes that could affect your life in unexpected ways?

CNN Explains: Health care reform

1. How many goodies your doctors get

Is your doctor prescribing you certain drugs because those are the best for your condition or because of a pharmaceutical company’s influence? Here’s one way you can find out.

The Physician Payment Sunshine Act under health care reform requires drug, device or medical supply companies to report annually certain payments or things of value that they’ve given physicians and teaching hospitals. This could be speaking fees, consulting fees, meals and travel. So, you can find out which and how much companies pay doctors or health care workers. The companies are obligated to report annually about physician ownership and their financial investments.

Continue Reading Here

Supreme Court Weighing Healthcare Reform Law

So many questions, so few answers. But the answers are coming! Here are some of our favorite stories out right now:

Via Yahoo News, Liz Goodwin, The Lookout

Could President Obama’s sweeping health care reform law survive if the court strikes down the requirement that all Americans buy insurance?

The short answer is yes — but insurance companies certainly won’t be happy about it.

Both Justice Department lawyers and their challengers agree that the individual mandate is not “separable” from the rest of the law, which means the rest of the law can’t survive if the individual mandate is surgically removed by the court.

The lower courts have been split on the question, but one of them, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, ruled in August that only the mandate should be struck down, leaving the rest of the law’s provisions — including an expansion of Medicaid to cover all low-income people and federal subsidies for lower-income and middle-class people to buy insurance — in place.

That decision no doubt sent shivers down the spines of some insurance executives. Striking down the mandate could be a nightmare scenario for the health insurance industry, since the rest of the law compels them to accept sick customers and to not charge higher premiums based on a customer’s health, age or gender. Sick customers would flood the insurance market and drive up costs, while young, healthy uninsured people would take their chances and not buy coverage, in what insurers worry would be a “death spiral” of rising costs.

Via The Associated Press, Boston Herald 

DONALD B. VERRILLI JR.

Verrilli is solicitor general of the United States, the government’s official representative in front of the Supreme Court. He was confirmed to his position last June as the replacement for Justice Elena Kagan after serving as associate deputy attorney general and an associate White House counsel in the Obama administration. A graduate Columbia Law School, where he served as editor-in-chief of the Columbia Law Review, he was a law clerk for Justice William J. Brennan, Jr. and a partner at Jenner & Block, where he co-chaired the firm’s Supreme Court practice. He has argued more than a dozen times before the Supreme Court, and worked as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Law School from 1992 through 2008. In 1994, as special counsel to President Bill Clinton, he assisted in the confirmation process for Justice Stephen Breyer.

Official biography: http://www.justice.gov/osg/meet-osg.html

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PAUL CLEMENT

Clement is a former solicitor general, having served in that position for President George W. Bush. When confirmed, he was the youngest solicitor general in 115 years at age 38. Clement graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School one year behind Obama, and clerked for Justice Antonin Scalia. He has argued more than 55 cases at the Supreme Court, and served as the chief counsel of the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Federalism and Property Rights. A partner at Bancroft PLLC, he is a Georgetown University law professor and a former partner at King & Spalding. He resigned from there after the firm decided not to continue its representation of the U.S. House of Representatives in its attempt to defend the Defense of Marriage Act. Clement was one of the lawyers who made the successful argument in front of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that would strike down the law’s core requirement that individuals carry health insurance or pay a penalty

Official biography: http://www.bancroftpllc.com/professionals/paul-d-clement/

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MICHAEL A. CARVIN

Another former Justice Department official, Carvin’s most famous argument was delivered to the Florida Supreme Court on behalf of soon-to-be President George W. Bush in the Florida recount controversy during the 2000 presidential election. A graduate of George Washington University’s law school in 1982, Carvin has worked as deputy assistant attorney general in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is responsible for legal opinions that are binding on the Executive Branch, deputy assistant attorney general and special assistant to the assistant attorney general in the department’s civil rights division. He will be representing the National Federation of Independent Businesses, which was a party to the lawsuit in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta that struck down the law’s core requirement that individuals buy health insurance or pay a penalty.

Official biography: http://www.jonesday.com/macarvin

Richard Wolf, USA Today, via the Pensacola News Journal

WASHINGTON — Health coverage for more than 30 million people. The power of Congress to regulate interstate commerce. President Obama’s re-election chances. The reputation of the Supreme Court and the legacy of its chief justice.

And to hear some tell it: liberty.

All that and more could be at stake today when the Supreme Court begins a historic three days of oral arguments on the 2010 health care law that has become a symbol of the nation’s deep political divide.

All that and more could be at stake today when the Supreme Court begins a historic three days of oral arguments on the 2010 health care law that has become a symbol of the nation’s deep political divide.

Not since the court confirmed George W. Bush’s election in December 2000 — before 9/11, Afghanistan and Iraq, Wall Street’s dive and Obama’s rise — has one case carried such sweeping implications for nearly every American.

STAY TUNED!