CMS extends Meaningful Use attestation deadline
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has extended the date eligible professionals (EPs) have to register and attest to meeting the Meaningful Use EHR Incentive Program requirements for 2016. EPs now have until Monday, Mar. 13, 2017, at 11:59 p.m. PT to register and attest in order to avoid the 2018 penalty. Those participating in the Medicaid portion of the EHR Incentive Program should refer to your state's deadlines for attestation information. Note that EPs eligible to participate in both the Medicare and Medicaid EHR Incentive Programs must attest to meeting the criteria for one or the other to avoid the 2018 Medicare penalty. The Medicare Meaningful Use program for physicians sunsets after this reporting period. EHR use will continue to be measured under the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS). The MGMA Meaningful Use Resource Center includes links to the CMS 2016 registration and attestation website, as well as helpful MGMA and CMS resources. 

Anthem-Cigna Merger Blocked
In a significant win last night for organized medicine and the nation’s patients, federal judge Amy Berman Jackson blocked the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger. The judge found that the merger would have substantially lessened competition for the sale of health insurance to national employers resulting in higher prices and diminished prospects for innovation. In a historic, stunning affirmation of the position urged by the AMA and consequently adopted by the government, Judge Jackson concluded that an enhanced ability to coerce physicians to accept lower reimbursement is not a merger efficiency defense.  She determined that it would not benefit consumers and “would erode the relationship between insurers and providers” and “reduce the collaboration” that is essential to innovation in payment and delivery.

The decision affirms the position urged by AMA and the 17-state medical association antitrust coalition members, particularly our partners in CA, CO, CT, GA, FL, IN, ME, MO, NY, OH, and VA. The AMA/coalition position was adopted in the plaintiffs’ complaint, and the judge rejected the insurers’ arguments that lowered physician reimbursement would benefit consumers and justify the merger.

The AMA and its coalition partners worked tirelessly to oppose this merger: updating our gold standard Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets; preparing detailed market analyses specific to the proposed Anthem-Cigna merger; sending comprehensive, evidence-based advocacy letters to the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and state regulators after the merger was announced in July 2015; engaging like-minded stakeholders like the American Hospital Association and various patient coalitions, as well as the National Association of Attorneys General; conducting extensive physician surveys to gauge physician concern about the merger and presenting the DOJ and state regulators with compelling survey results; testifying in or submitting memoranda in various state insurance department hearings and/or attorney general investigations, and making that, and other evidence and testimony, available to the DOJ and state regulators; securing outside experts to buttress our arguments and strip down those of the insurers -- all demonstrating how the merger would harm patients and physicians.

This victory is the result of our relentless, focused and collaborative advocacy. We want to take this opportunity to thank all of our coalition partners for helping us achieve this historic victory on behalf of our physician members and their patients. The impact of blocking both mega-mergers cannot be overstated. Our collective work on both mergers is, without a doubt, a model for future advocacy success.

Senate Confirms Price As HHS Secretary
The New York Times (2/10, Pear, Kaplan, Subscription Publication) reports that “the Senate early Friday approved the nomination of Representative Tom Price to be secretary of health and human services.”

The AP (2/10, Fram) reports, “Until recently chairman of the House Budget Committee, Price has proposed repealing” the Affordable Care Act “and replacing it with tax credits, health savings accounts and high-risk pools for sick, costly consumers.”

USA Today (2/10, Hjelmgaard). points out that “senators confirmed his nomination by a strictly party-line 52-47 vote.”

AMA will work with Congress and the Administration to improve care, achieve better outcomes for patients, and reduce regulatory burden on physicians. AMA recently urged Congressional leaders that before any action is taken through reconciliation or other means that would potentially alter coverage, they should lay out for the American people, in reasonable detail, what will replace current policies, so patients and other stakeholders should be able to clearly compare current policy to new proposals so they can make informed decisions about whether they represent a step forward in the ongoing process of health reform. A core principle is that any new reform proposal should not cause individuals currently covered to become uninsured. See the AMA website to learn the latest about our ongoing efforts. (courtesy of the AMA).