Of these areas, cancer screening could be important to radiology practices, but the news was not good -- CMS declined to include CT colonography coverage in the MPFS, while it expanded coverage for traditional colonoscopy. The MPFS regulates the Medicare fee schedule payment provisions as well as the Quality Payment Program (QPP).
MPFS Payment Provisions
If the overall payment adjustment in the proposed rule remains unchanged by Congressional intervention, radiology will suffer cuts across the board. The overall change to the fee schedule conversion factor is a reduction of 4.4% (from $34.6062 to $33.0775 per relative value unit or RVU) with the following specific effects, according to CMS estimates:
- Radiology: 3% decrease
- Interventional radiology: 4% decrease
- Nuclear medicine: 3% decrease
- Radiation oncology and radiation therapy centers: 1% decrease
The estimated decreases do not differentiate between the global fee and the professional component. Often, revisions to things like practice expense factors affect the technical component, which is built into the global fee, while the professional component is not affected. A more in-depth analysis of the RVU table in an upcoming article will reveal which procedures were increased and which were reduced by more or less than the overall estimates.
In its preliminary summary, the American College of Radiology (ACR) reports that CMS accepted recommendations for 10 radiology-related current procedural terminology (CPT) codes, which is a good result. The codes accepted include the following:
- Contrast x-ray studies of knee joints
- Rendering and interpretation of 3D exams
- Ultrasound and fluoroscopic guidance
In addition, CMS is proposing to refine values for codes related to the below:
- Neuromuscular ultrasound
- Percutaneous arteriovenous fistula creation.
Another bit of good news announced by CMS separate from the MPFS proposed rule is the indefinite delay of the penalty phase of the appropriate use criteria/clinical decision-support (AUC/CDS) program, which would deny payment to radiologists when the ordering physician fails to consult a clinical decision-support system based on appropriate use criteria (AUC).
The penalty phase was set to begin in the year following the end of the current COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE), but the announcement by CMS states that it is unable to forecast when the payment penalty phase will begin. The current ongoing educational and testing period will continue at least beyond January 1, 2023, even if the PHE ends in 2022.
CMS has proposed to extend the telehealth flexibilities that were put into place during the PHE in order to determine if they should be made permanent. The expanded availability of telehealth includes any geographic area (not only underserved areas), any originating site setting (not limited to certain facilities, and including the patient's home), and via audio-only telecommunications systems (not requiring both audio and video).
The proposal would require the appropriate place of service (POS) code rather than Modifier -95, and Modifier -93 would be used to indicate services furnished with audio-only technology. Under the current regulations put into place by the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 the telehealth flexibilities expire 151 days after the end of the PHE.
Another PHE provision will not be extended, according to the MPFS Proposed Rule. Direct physician supervision of diagnostic exams, such as those requiring contrast administration, will no longer be allowed via real-time audio/video telecommunications. The current rule for direct supervision will expire on December 31 of the year in which the PHE ends.
Quality Payment Program (QPP)
The focus of the QPP has been moving away from the original Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and toward MIPS Value Pathways (MVP), which will first be available for reporting in 2023. In addition to the already announced pathways, CMS proposes five new MVPs and the revision of seven previously established MVPs. The five new proposed MVPs for the 2023 performance year are as follows:
- Advancing cancer care
- Optimal care for kidney health
- Optimal care for patients with episodic neurological conditions
- Supportive care for neurodegenerative conditions
- Promoting wellness
Revisions have been made to the following MVPs:
- Advancing care for heart disease
- Optimizing chronic disease management
- Advancing rheumatology patient care
- Improving care for lower extremity joint repair
- Adopting best practices and promoting patient safety within emergency medicine
- Patient safety and support of positive experiences with anesthesia
- Coordinating stroke care to promote prevention and cultivate positive outcomes
Other proposed revisions to the Quality Payment Program (QPP) include:
- Nine new quality measures, including one new administrative claims measure; one composite measure; five high-priority measures; and two new patient-reported outcome measures
- Substantive changes to 75 existing quality measures
- Removal of 15 quality measures
- Revision to the benchmarks for scoring and expansion of the definition of a high-priority measure
- Addition of four new improvement activities
- Removal of six existing improvement activities
- Modification of five existing improvement activities
Of the new quality measures, one (screening for social drivers of health) could be relevant to radiology, and only one of the removed measures (#76: prevention of central venous catheter [CVC]-related bloodstream infections) will affect radiology practices. We do not anticipate that the Improvement Activity changes will affect most radiology practices.
The category weighting will remain the same as it is for 2022, as will the data completeness threshold of 70%. The performance threshold will continue to be 75 points, but the exceptional performance bonus was sunset as of the 2022 performance year. The range of payment adjustment will continue to be +/- 9%.
Several QPP provisions that were previously finalized by CMS will take effect in 2023. They include the following:
- The web reporting interface will no longer be available after the 2022 performance year.
- Measures with a benchmark will no longer have a three-point floor; they will fall within a range of from 1 to 10 points.
- Measures without a benchmark will receive 0 points, except small practices (fewer than 15 clinicians) will continue to receive 3 points.
- Measures that do not meet the case minimum will receive 0 points, except small practices (fewer than 15 clinicians) will continue to receive 3 points. Measures calculated from administrative claims are excluded from scoring if the case minimum is not met.
The scoring changes listed above do not apply to new measures or administrative claims measures for the first two years in which they are available for use.
For performance years 2017-2022 (payment years 2019-2024), qualified participants (QP) in the Alternative Payment Model (APM) receive a 5% APM incentive payment. The incentive payment is scheduled to be replaced by a 0.75% fee schedule increase beginning in payment year 2026; thus, there is no APM incentive payment or fee schedule adjustment for QPs in 2025 under the current regulations.
Complete information on the proposed changes to the QPP is available for download from CMS.
The proposals put forth by CMS could change in the Final Rule that is typically issued in early December for the coming year. The 4.4% cut to the fee schedule is of great concern, with the Radiology Business Management Association (RBMA) executive director writing that it "will do incalculable damage to the medical profession." The RBMA's Radiology Patient Action Network (RPAN) is soliciting members for a grassroots campaign to fight the cuts.
Sandy Coffta is the vice president of client services at Healthcare Administrative Partners.
The comments and observations expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AuntMinnie.com.
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