EMERGENCY! The MIPS stake is plunging into the heart of traditional Medicare

H.R. 1470: “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015”

114th Congress


To amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to repeal the Medicare sustainable growth rate and improve Medicare payments for physicians and other professionals, and for other purposes.

TABLE OF CONTENTS.—The table of contents of this Act is as follows:

Sec. 1. Short title; table of contents.

Sec. 2. Repealing the sustainable growth rate (SGR) and improving Medicare payment for physicians’ services.

Sec. 3. Priorities and funding for measure development.

Sec. 4. Encouraging care management for individuals with chronic care needs. 

Sec. 5. Empowering beneficiary choices through continued access to information on physicians’ services.

Sec. 6. Expanding availability of Medicare data.

Sec. 7. Reducing administrative burden and other provisions.


         (1) IN GENERAL.—Section 1848 of the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. 1395w–4) is amended by adding at the end the following new subsection:


       “(1) ESTABLISHMENT.—

         “(A) IN GENERAL.—Subject to the succeeding provisions of this subsection, the Secretary shall establish an eligible professional Merit-based Incentive Payment System (in this subsection referred to as the ‘MIPS’) under which the Secretary shall—

             “(i) develop a methodology for assessing the total performance of each MIPS eligible professional according to performance standards under paragraph (3) for a performance period (as established under paragraph (4)) for a year;

             “(ii) using such methodology, provide for a composite performance score in accordance with paragraph (5) for each such professional for each performance period; and

             “(iii) use such composite performance score of the MIPS eligible professional for a performance period for a year to determine and apply a MIPS adjustment factor (and, as applicable, an additional MIPS adjustment factor) under paragraph (6) to the professional for the year.


          “(A) PERFORMANCE CATEGORIES.—Under the MIPS, the Secretary shall use the following performance categories (each of which is referred to in this subsection as a performance category) in determining the composite performance score under paragraph (5):

              “(i) Quality.

              “(ii) Resource use.

              “(iii) Clinical practice improvement activities.

              “(iv) Meaningful use of certified EHR technology

           “(B) MEASURES AND ACTIVITIES SPECIFIED FOR EACH CATEGORY.—For purposes of paragraph (3)(A) and subject to subparagraph (C), measures and activities specified for a performance period (as established under paragraph (4)) for a year are as follows:

              “(i) QUALITY.—For the performance category described in subparagraph (A)(i), the quality measures included in the final measures list published under subparagraph (D)(i) for such year and the list of quality measures described in subparagraph (D)(vi) used by qualified clinical data registries under subsection (m)(3)(E).

              “(ii) RESOURCE USE.—For the performance category described in subparagraph (A)(ii), the measurement of resource use for such period under subsection (p)(3), using the methodology under subsection (r) as appropriate, and, as feasible and applicable, accounting for the cost of drugs under part D.

              “(iii) CLINICAL PRACTICE IMPROVEMENT ACTIVITIES.—For the performance category described in subparagraph (A)(iii), clinical practice improvement activities (as defined in subparagraph (C)(v)(III)) under subcategories specified by the Secretary for such period, which shall include at least the following:

                 “(I) The subcategory of expanded practice access, such as same day appointments for urgent needs and after hours access to clinician advice.

                 “(II) The subcategory of population management, such as monitoring health conditions of individuals to provide timely health care interventions or participation in a qualified clinical data registry.

                  “(III) The subcategory of care coordination, such as timely communication of test results, timely exchange of clinical information to patients and other providers, and use of remote monitoring or telehealth.

                  “(IV) The subcategory of beneficiary engagement, such as the establishment of care plans for individuals with complex care needs, beneficiary self-management assessment and training, and using shared decision-making mechanisms.

                  “(V) The subcategory of patient safety and practice assessment, such as through use of clinical or surgical checklists and practice assessments related to maintaining certification.

                  “(VI) The subcategory of participation in an alternative payment model (as defined in section 1833(z)(3)(C)).

              In establishing activities under this clause, the Secretary shall give consideration to the circumstances of small practices (consisting of 15 or fewer professionals) and practices located in rural areas and in health professional shortage areas (as designated under section 332(a)(1)(A) of the Public Health Service Act).

              “(iv) MEANINGFUL EHR USE.—For the performance category described in sub-paragraph (A)(iv), the requirements established for such period under subsection (o)(2) for determining whether an eligible professional is a meaningful EHR user.

Sec. 2(e)(6) INTEGRATING MEDICARE ADVANTAGE ALTERNATIVE PAYMENT MODELS.—Not later than July 1, 2016, the Secretary of Health and Human Services shall submit to Congress a study that examines the feasibility of integrating alternative payment models in the Medicare Advantage payment system. The study shall include the feasibility of including a value-based modifier and whether such modifier should be budget neutral.

GPO pdf of H.R. 1470:



By Don McCanne, MD

It is URGENT that everyone who cares about the future of Medicare understands what is happening here.

H.R. 1470, the “SGR Repeal and Medicare Provider Payment Modernization Act of 2015,” was formally introduced in the House of Representatives only yesterday (3/19/15), with strong bipartisan support. The 158 pages (GPO pdf) introduced so far provide a mechanism for replacing the Medicare Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) for determining Medicare payments, with a new Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

Next week it is anticipated that the House will act on amendments that allegedly will help offset the cost of canceling payment reductions that would have taken place under the SGR system. Today’s message is limited to the new MIPS, but everyone should be alarmed about the amendments that are to be considered next week. Just two of them - greater means testing of Part B premiums, and requiring Medigap enrollees to start paying deductibles - will be very damaging to the egalitarian nature of our Medicare program.

The excerpts from H.R. 1470,  above, reveal how the government intends to fulfill its goal of supposedly converting Medicare from a system that pays based on volume to a system that is based on value. Since the excerpts represent only a small sampling of this bill, it would be wise to download the full bill. You can gain a better understanding of the bill by skimming through the 158 pages, reading only the lines in full capital letters, while reading in full any section that piques your interest. It takes just a few minutes. That’s too much? Remember, this bill is about to become law and we will have to live with it perhaps for decades (the scorned SGR has been with us for 18 years).

One ominous clause in the bill is Sec. 2(e)(6) on page 101 of the GPO version. It calls for a study of “the feasibility of integrating alternative payment models in the Medicare Advantage payment system.” That is code language to clarify that these onerous requirements of MIPS apply only to the traditional Medicare program and not to the private Medicare Advantage plans. Why is that important?

The House budget introduced this week once again calls for the end of the traditional Medicare program and replacing it with a market of private plans. Although this has been a Republican goal, many Democrats now agree to this MIPS legislation that moves in that direction, and it has the strong support of the AMA and other physician organizations. While loudly proclaiming that we finally have a “doc fix” for the SGR, they are moving forward with changes that will lead us much closer to Medicare privatization, using the excuse that compromise is the way the legislative process works.

Physicians will be mortified by the new requirements and administrative burdens of MIPS. They will be looking for a way out. For those not able to retire, there may be a mass exodus of physicians from the traditional Medicare program into the Medicare Advantage plans. Included in H.R. 1470 is even a ruling change that simplifies the requirements for a physician totally opting out of Medicare indefinitely.

This process is being steamrolled. The bill will pass this month, unless Congress is deafened by a roaring protest.

Are you just going to sit there?