Qualifying APM participant considerations

This paper by Milliman’s Charlie Mills, Pamela Pelizzari, and Christopher Kunkel explores the challenges and opportunities regarding participation in an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) track under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA). The authors also discuss why becoming Qualifying APM Participants (QPs) may be desirable to some providers as well as the risks they might encounter through the process.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Opportunities associated with QP status

Financial opportunities

Despite the potential downsides to participating in Advanced APMs and seeing QP status, there are also potential financial benefits, including the following:

A lump-sum payment equal to 5% of their prior year’s payments for Part B covered professional services. QPs can become eligible for this lump-sum incentive payment for years 2019 through 2024. Overall, this is the primary financial opportunity for QPs.

Insulation from the potential downside of the MIPS adjustment. In general, MIPS is a budget-neutral (i.e., zero-sum) program, with a financial downside of 4% in 2019, growing to 9% in 2022. Because QPs and Partial QPs are excluded from MIPS, they are not exposed to MIPS’s downside and do not have to navigate the hundreds of quality and performance measures that make up MIPS.

Opportunities for shared savings from the Advanced APM. QPs will have the opportunity to share in gains (and will generally be required to share in losses) from the Advanced APMs they participate in.

Higher conversion factor increases starting in 2026. Starting in payment year 2026, QPs will receive a conversion factor increase of 0.75% compared with 0.25% for non-QPs. Over time, this could result in significantly higher payment rates for QPs versus non-QPs.

Clinical integration benefits

Several of the currently available Advanced APMs aim to align incentives across different types of providers. For example, ACOs encourage physicians and hospitals to work together to ensure beneficiaries receive appropriate care that can keep them healthy and out of hospitals. In many cases, however, individual physicians do not see the financial benefits of these programs without entering into what can be complex and time-consuming gainsharing arrangements. By providing a 5% lump-sum incentive payment to QPs, MACRA serves to create an even greater incentive for physicians to participate actively in Advanced APMs.

While other payer Advanced APMs do not contribute to QP threshold calculations until performance year 2019 (incentive payment year 2021), it’s possible that the increased engagement physicians have in Advanced APMs that is due to MACRA will have trickle-down effects on other lines of business and patient populations beyond Medicare fee-for-service. This could serve to improve the quality of care and reduce costs for patients covered by other payers.