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Lawmakers ask HHS to be flexible with MACRA, stop short of backing delay

Leaders from the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce said healthcare providers need more time.

Beth Jones Sanborn, Managing Editor

Leaders from the House Ways and Means Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell urging the federal agency to be flexible with the looming rollout of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, or MACRA.

While they did not, however, ask the feds to outright delay the January launch of MACRA, they did suggest that the federal agency should make sure healthcare providers are ready before going live.

Energy and Commerce leaders Fred Upton and Frank Pallone, Ways and Means leaders Kevin Brady and Sandy Levin, and the leaders of their committees' health panels, called for flexibility in five key areas: simplified and streamlined requirements; clear paths to success on both the MIPS and APM tracks; opportunities to move to the APM track and rewards for "meaningful delivery system reform activities" in MIPS and APMs; reporting in January 2017 "with appropriate systems ready and in place."

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[Also: Physician blasts MACRA, calls regulation a 'trojan horse for government takeover']

MACRA includes scores of new activities physicians must participate in to ensure full reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid. Those include hitting many quality benchmarks, attesting to meaningful use of electronic health records and participating in measure to improve their practices.

"We understand that the timeframe is short, but we are committed to the successful and timely implementation of the law while still providing practitioners time and opportunities to succeed," the lawmakers wrote.

The final draft of MACRA isn't expected out until early November, leaving only two months to prepare. CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt has at least twice hinted that an alternative start date for the new rule is possible.

Twitter: @BethJSanborn