(Story updated at 5:11 p.m. ET)
The CMS on Thursday announced it will allow providers to choose the level and pace at which they comply with the new payment reform model aimed at emphasizing quality patient care over volume.
The announcement comes after intense pressure from industry stakeholders and policymakers to ease implementation of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, which is set to start Jan. 1, 2017. Two months ago, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said the agency was considering delaying the start date.
Next year, eligible physicians and other clinicians will be given four options to comply with new payment schemes such as the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or an alternative payment model such as accountable care organizations.
Under MIPS, physician payments will be based on a compilation of quality measures and the use of electronic health records. About 90% of physicians are expected to pursue MIPS because a qualifying APM requires a hefty amount of risk.
In the first option offered Thursday, any data reported will allow providers to avoid a negative payment adjustment. The goal is to ease providers into broader participation in the following two years.
The second option allows providers to submit data for a reduced number of days. This means their first performance period could begin later than Jan. 1 and that practice could still qualify for a small payment if it submits data on how the practice is using technology and how it's improving.
The third option is for practices that are ready to go in 2017.
“We've seen physician practices of all sizes successfully submit a full year's quality data, and expect many will be ready to do so,” Slavitt said.