CMS may delay MACRA, MIPS start date

You might get some extra time to prepare your providers for Medicare's sweeping new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). MIPS is currently scheduled to begin modifying your 2019 Medicare payments based on performance data from 2017, which means that you have less than six months to get ready. But now CMS is hinting that a delay is possible, though the information is based on statements from the agency's acting administrator.

"There has been significant feedback received here, and we remain open to options including alternative start dates, looking at shorter [reporting] periods used, and other ways physicians could get help and experience before the program hits them," CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said during a July 13 televised Senate Finance Committee hearing on MIPS, which is a key component of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA), passed last year.

Slavitt said that CMS will take steps to ensure that MIPS "begins on the right foot, so every physician in the country feels that they are set up for success."

Slavitt made these remarks under questioning from several skeptical members of the Committee, including Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), all of whom referenced the volume of legislative changes providers and practices are facing as a result of the Affordable Care Act, the ICD-10 transition, and the switch to electronic health records.

As it stands, the MACRA proposed rule (released April 27) sets Jan. 1, 2017 as the date on which CMS begins data collection for 2019, the first MIPS payment year. The MACRA final rule is expected in early November, which would give you even less time to prepare for any changes made in the final rule that don't appear in the proposed rule.