Current Issue - September/October - Vol 21 Issue 5


  1. 2018;21;415-432Reframing Medicare Physician Payment Policy for 2019: A Look at Proposed Policy
    Health Policy
    Laxmaiah Manchikanti, MD, Vijay Singh, MD, Ramsin M. Benyamin, MD, Alan D. Kaye, MD, PhD, Vidyasagar Pampati, MSc, and Joshua A. Hirsch, MD.

On July 12, 2018, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the proposed 2019 Medicare physician fee schedule and quality payment program, combining these 2 rules for the first time. This occurred in a milieu of changing regulations that have been challenging for interventional pain management specialists. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) continuous to be amended by multiple administrative changes. This July 12th rule proposes substantial payment changes for evaluation and management (E&M) services, with documentation requirements, and blending of Level II to V CPT codes for E&M into a single payment. In addition, various changes in the quality payment program with liberalization of some metrics have been published. Recognizing that there are differing impacts based on specialty and practice type, as a whole interventional pain management specialists would likely see favorable reimbursement trends for E&M services as a result of this proposal. Moreover, in comparison with recent CMS final ruling, this proposed rule has relatively limited changes in procedural reimbursement performed in a facility or in-office setting.

CMS, in the new rule, has proposed an overhaul of the E&M documentation and coding system ostensibly to reduce the amount of time physicians are required to spend inputting information into patients’ records. The new proposed rule blends Level II to V codes for E&M services into a single payment of $93 for office outpatient visits for established patients and $135 for new patient visits. This will also have an effect with blended payments for services provided in hospital outpatients. CMS also has provided additional codes to increase the reimbursement when prolonged services are provided with total reimbursement coming to Level V payments. Interventional pain management-centered care has been identified as a specialty with complexity inherent to E&M associated with these services.

Among the procedural payments, there exist significant discrepancies for the services performed in hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers (ASCs), and offices. A particularly egregious example is peripheral neurolytic blocks, which is reimbursed at 1,800% higher in hospital outpatient department (HOPD) settings as compared with procedures done in the office. The majority of hospital based procedures have faced relatively small cuts as compared with office based practice. The only significant change noted is for spinal cord stimulator implant leads when performed in office setting with 19.2% increase. However, epidural codes, which have been initiated with a lower payment, continue to face small reductions for physician portion.

This review describes the effects of the proposed policy on interventional pain management reimbursement for E&M services, procedural services by physicians and procedures performed in office settings.

KEY WORDS: Physician payment policy, physician fee schedule, Medicare, Merit-Based Incentive Payment System, interventional pain management, regulatory tsunami, Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015