EDPMA Responds to CY 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule Proposed Rule

On Tuesday, September 6th, EDPMA submitted its comment letter responding to proposals included in the calendar year (CY) 2023 Medicare Physician Fee Schedule (MPFS) proposed rule.  The MPFS proposed rule is issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and sets health care professional payment rates and other policies, including quality reporting requirements, for the upcoming calendar year. In addition to addressing the planned cuts to the CY 2023 MPFS conversion factor and other downward pressures on Medicare physician payments, key highlights from the CY 2023 MPFS EDPMA comment letter include:

  • Emergency Department Evaluation & Management (ED E/M) Codes: CMS proposed adopting the revised CPT documentation guidelines for emergency department (ED) evaluation and management (E/M) visits. These changes are intended to align documentation for all E/M code sets (other than critical care services) with the documentation guidelines adopted for office and outpatient E/Ms in CY 2021. (For more information on the ED E/M documentation guideline changes coming January 1, 2023, see information from AMA CPT via this link.) Because of these documentation guideline changes, the AMA RUC also embarked on a revaluation of all affected codes sets. In this rule, CMS proposed accepting the values for emergency department (ED) evaluation and management (E/M) services as recommended by the AMA RUC for CPT 99281, 99282, 99283, and 99285. However, CMS rejected the RUC recommendation of 2.60 for CPT 99284 and instead proposes to maintain the current work relative value units (RVUs) of 2.74. EDPMA provided support for CMS’ proposed wRVUs for the emergency department visit code set.
  • Split (or Shared) E/M Visits: CMS had previously finalized a new January 1, 2023 billing policy for instances in which a physician delivers an E/M service along with a non-physician practitioner. CMS had stated that the practitioner that would bill the service would be the one who performed the “substantive portion” of the service. For January 1, 2023, CMS had set out to define “substantive portion” as “more than half of the total time.” As EDPMA requested prior to CY 2023 rulemaking, CMS has delayed the policy that would have based the determination of the billing practitioner solely on time. The policy is proposed for delay through January 1, 2024 while CMS collects additional input. In the meantime, “substantive portion” will continue to be defined as one of the three key components (history, exam, or MDM) of the E/M or more than half of the total time. EDPMA opposed any future implementation of a definition of “substantive portion” that is based solely on time, particularly as it applies to ED E/M visits.
  • Critical Care Services: In the proposed rule, CMS revisited policies that it finalized as part of CY 2022 rulemaking for critical care services described by the following codes:
    • CPT 99291 (Critical care, evaluation and management of the critically ill or critically injured patient; first 30-74 minutes))
    • CPT 99292 (each additional 30 minutes)

In the proposed rule, CMS stated,

At 86 FR 65162, we stated in error, “Similar to our proposal for split (or shared) prolonged visits, the billing practitioner would first report CPT code 99291 and, if 75 or more cumulative total minutes were spent providing critical care, the billing practitioner could report one or more units of CPT code 99292.” We intended to state that CPT code 99292 could be billed after 104, not 75, or more cumulative total minutes were spent providing critical care. As correctly stated elsewhere in the CY 2022 PFS final rule (regarding critical care furnished by single physicians at 86 FR 65160, and regarding concurrent care furnished by multiple practitioners in the same group and the same specialty to the same patient at 86 FR 65162), our policy is that CPT code 99291 is reportable for the first 30-74 minutes of critical care services furnished to a patient on a given date. CPT code 99292 is reportable for additional, complete 30-minute time increments furnished to the same patient (74 + 30 = 104 minutes). We clarify that our policy is the same for critical care whether the patient is receiving care from one physician, multiple practitioners in the same group and specialty who are providing concurrent care, or physicians and NPPs who are billing critical care as a split (or shared) visit.

EDPMA forcefully opposed this uncalled for change and urged CMS to withdraw the proposal as it is confusing and would result in guidance that departs from well-recognized, long-standing CPT critical care “time” policy.

  • Telehealth Services: CMS reviewed its policies after the sudden expansion of telehealth services in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). As part of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2022 (CAA, 2022), Congress extended the flexibilities for telehealth originating site and geographic requirements for a period of 151 days after the end of the COVID-19 PHE. In the CY 2023 MPFS proposed rule, CMS took several steps to effectuate these provisions from the CAA, 2022. Of note, the emergency department visits and critical care services are only approved as Medicare telehealth services through December 31, 2023.  If the PHE should extend past that date, or the “151 days after the end of the COVID-19 PHE” were to extend into 2024, CMS would need to take additional steps to allow for continued telehealth billing for ED visits and critical care services.  CMS has, though, communicated an openness to adding codes in this category to the list permanently if CMS receives more data supporting such a change.  EDPMA encouraged CMS to permanently add CPT 99281 – 99285 and CPT 99291 and 99292 (and their revised 2023 code descriptors) to the Medicare Approved List of Telehealth Services.
  • MIPS Value Pathways (MVPs): According to CMS, MVPs are more streamlined sets of existing MIPS measures and improvement activities focused on a condition, procedure, or patient population. Clinicians who opt-in to this pathway will benefit from slightly reduced reporting requirements (i.e., reporting 4 vs. 6 quality measures and attesting to 2 vs. up to 4 improvement activities).  Last year, CMS finalized the “Adopting Best Practices and Promoting Patient Safety within Emergency Medicine” MVP for voluntary use beginning with the 2023 performance year.  EDPMA shared concerns that that the Emergency Medicine MVP only includes five non-QCDR measures. Therefore, in order to ensure that emergency medicine clinicians can take advantage of this new and more focused participation pathway without having to use a QCDR, EDPMA requested that CMS add additional non-QCDR measures to the Emergency Medicine MVP as well as to include the following Improvement Activities:
    • IA_BMH_12: Promoting Clinician Wellbeing
    • IA_AHE_8: Create and Implement an Anti-Racism Plan
  • MIPS Specialty Measure Sets: CMS issued several proposals to update the Emergency Medicine MIPS Specialty Measure set. EDPMA questioned CMS’ proposal to re-incorporate measures #226: Tobacco Use: Screening and Cessation Intervention and #431: Unhealthy Alcohol Use: Screening & Brief Counseling after it had previously determined that these measures were inappropriate for Emergency Medicine and removed them from the Emergency Medicine specialty set in 2018. Additionally, EDPMA expressed concern about CMS’ proposal to include measure #134: Screening for Depression and Follow-Up Plan in the Emergency Medicine specialty set.
  • Qualifying Participants (QP) in Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs): In accordance with the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), clinicians who participate sufficiently in an Advanced APM are considered QPs, qualify for a 5 percent lump sum incentive payment, and are excluded from MIPS. However, after the 2022 performance year, there is no further statutory authority for a 5 percent APM incentive payment for QPs. EDPMA urged CMS to work with relevant stakeholders to develop more specialty-specific APMs, as well as opportunities for specialists to partner with and/or play a more actionable role in existing models and to work with Congress to pass legislation that extends the 5% APM Incentive Payment, provides CMS with the authority to maintain the current QP patient and payment threshold levels, and provides CMS with the flexibility to allow QPs to choose whether they want to be considered under MIPS or the Advanced APM track of the QPP.

The full EDPMA comment letter is available for review here. The CY 2023 MPFS final rule is expected around November 1, 2022 with most provisions effective January 1, 2023.