The Texas Medical Association is urging federal lawmakers to extend a technical assistance program for small practices in rural and underserved areas that participate in Medicare’s Quality Payment Program (QPP).
Four members of Congress, including U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess, MD (R-Lewisville), the senior physician representing Texas, introduced the Small Practice, Underserved, and Rural Support (SURS) Program Extension Act on Feb. 2. If passed, the bill would reauthorize the SURS program – which helps small practices in rural and underserved areas complete their QPP reporting requirements – through 2027. Otherwise, it was set to expire Feb. 15.
“Given that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that fewer clinicians participated in QPP in 2020 and fewer of those who did earned incentive payments compared with 2019, the extension of SURS is needed,” TMA President E. Linda Villarreal, MD, wrote in a Feb. 14 letter sent to the Texas congressional delegation.
Clinicians can participate in QPP through either the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) or an alternative payment model. During the 2020 performance year, 89.11% of MIPS-eligible clinicians participated in QPP, more than eight percentage points less than in 2019, according to preliminary data CMS released in January. This difference was even starker among MIPS-eligible clinicians in small practices, 77.10% of whom participated in QPP during 2020, a drop of nearly 23 percentage points from 2019.
Since QPP launched in 2017, the SURS program has helped, on average, 107,250 clinicians each year, according to CMS.
“This program has been successful in providing the technical support needed to navigate reporting requirements for rural and underserved physicians who want to transition to value-based care,” Dr. Burgess said in a Feb. 2 statement. “We must provide this support to physicians who want to modernize their models of care.”