What the New Medicare Bill Means for Physicians and Payments

By Bill Bunker, Executive Vice President, SCI Solutions

In a historic bi-partisan bill, President Obama signed legislation on Thursday to end an outdated Medicare payment system, averting a 21 percent physician pay cut.

President Obama says the new bill gives physicians assurance on Medicare payments. “It also improves it because it starts encouraging payments based on quality, not the number of tests that are provided or the number of procedures that are applied but whether or not people actually start feeling better,” Obama said. “It encourages us to continue to make the system better without denying service.”

While many physicians view the “Doc Fix” bill as a victory, some are apprehensive on whether the new quality-based payments will be fair as the bill does not provide details on how quality will be measured. Under the new legislation, Medicare will increase the amount it reimburses doctors by 0.5 percent over the next five years. Doctors will earn a five percent bonus if they participate in new payment models, such as a patient-centered medical home or Accountable Care Organization.

This new payment model will require collaborative documentation across a patient’s care team, which may include multiple hospitals and practices. To support documentation, physicians need interoperable technology to collaborate. While the ONC is pushing for interoperability among EMRs, the standards have yet to be written and will likely be a slow-moving process.

Some third-party healthcare technology vendors, like Clarity Health, have created an interoperable platform that connects practices across multiple EMR vendors. By utilizing collaborative technology, physicians can provide both better care for their patients and better documentation for payment.

What do you think of the “Doc Fix” Bill? Share your comments below.

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