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    Slow and steady won't win MACRA race for physicians

    Given the challenges with Medicare payment reform, it may be tempting for physicians to implement MACRA slowly at first and learn along the way. Indeed, CMS has designed the rollout to enable those affected to “pick their own pace.” Adding to the temptation to opt for minimal participation in 2017, full payment adjustments won’t go into effect until 2019. 

    There are, however, cogent reasons for healthcare professionals to amp up their participation in Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) as soon as possible in 2017.

    Compensation is about competition

    First, MACRA’s initial performance period for data collection began on January 1, 2017. Physicians who weren’t ready to start collecting data at the beginning of the year can choose to start any time up until October 2, 2017. This data will help CMS determine payment adjustments beginning in 2019.  

    Most physicians will likely adopt the MIPS payment track and, since Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) must be budget neutral, for some to earn performance bonuses others must be  penalized. Ultimately, this means compensation will reflect how well physicians perform relative to others.

    Considering that the bonus reporting process can be complex and onerous, it follows that physicians and practices taking a wait-and-see approach could face an uphill climb in 2019, while those who pick a faster pace may be better positioned financially.  

    L Patrick James
    L. Patrick James, M.D. is Chief Clinical Officer for Health Plans & Policy, Medical Affairs at Quest Diagnostics, the world’s leading ...


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