On July 7, CMS issued the Calendar Year 2023 Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) proposed rule, which would significantly expand access to behavioral health services, Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), cancer screening, and dental care — particularly in rural and underserved areas. These proposed changes play a key role in the Biden-Harris Administration’s Unity Agenda — especially its priorities to tackle our nation’s mental health crisis, beat the overdose and opioid epidemic, and end cancer as we know it through the Cancer Moonshot — and ensure CMS continues to deliver on its goals of advancing health equity, driving high-quality, whole-person care, and ensuring the sustainability of the Medicare program for future generations.
“At CMS, we are constantly striving to expand access to high quality, comprehensive health care for people served by the Medicare program,” said CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure. “Today’s proposals expand access to vital medical services like behavioral health care, dental care, and cancer treatment options, all while promoting access, innovation, and cost savings in the Medicare program.”
“Integrated coordinated, whole-person care — which addresses physical health, behavioral health, and social determinants of health — is crucial for people with Medicare, especially those with complex needs,” said Dr. Meena Seshamani, CMS Deputy Administrator and Director of the Center for Medicare. “If finalized, the proposals in this rule will advance equity, lead to better care, support healthier populations, and drive smarter spending of the Medicare dollar.
The proposed CY 2023 PFS conversion factor is $33.08, a decrease of $1.53 to the CY 2022 PFS conversion factor of $34.61. This conversion factor accounts for the statutorily required update to the conversion factor for CY 2023 of 0%, the expiration of the 3% increase in PFS payments for CY 2022 as required by the Protecting Medicare and American Farmers From Sequester Cuts Act, and the statutorily required budget neutrality adjustment to account for changes in Relative Value Units.
Modernizing Coverage for Behavioral Health Services
In the 2022 CMS Behavioral Health Strategy, CMS set goals to remove barriers to care and improve access to, and the quality of, mental health and substance use care. To help address the acute shortage of behavioral health practitioners, the agency is proposing to allow licensed professional counselors, marriage and family therapists, and other types of behavioral health practitioners to provide behavioral health services under general (rather than direct) supervision. Additionally, CMS is proposing to pay for clinical psychologists and licensed clinical social workers to provide integrated behavioral health services as part of a patient’s primary care team.
CMS is also proposing to bundle certain chronic pain management and treatment services into new monthly payments, improving patient access to team-based comprehensive chronic pain treatment. Lastly, CMS is proposing to cover opioid treatment and recovery services from mobile units, such as vans, to increase access for people who are homeless or live in rural areas.
Expanding Access to Accountable Care Organizations
ACOs are groups of health care providers who come together to give coordinated, high-quality care to their Medicare patients. The Medicare Shared Savings Program covers more than 11 million people with Medicare and includes more than 500,000 providers.
CMS is proposing changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program that, if finalized, represent some of the most significant reforms since the final rule that established the program was finalized in November 2011 and ACOs began participating in 2012. Building on the CMS Innovation Center’s successful ACO Investment Model, CMS is proposing to incorporate advance shared savings payments to certain new Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs that could be used to address Medicare beneficiaries’ social needs. This is one of the first times Traditional Medicare payments would be permitted for such uses and is expected to be an opportunity for providers in rural and other underserved areas to make the investments needed to become an ACO and succeed in the program. CMS is also proposing that smaller ACOs have more time to transition to downside risk, further helping to grow participation in rural and underserved communities. CMS is also proposing a health equity adjustment to an ACO’s quality performance category score to reward excellent care delivered to underserved populations. Finally, CMS is proposing benchmark adjustments to encourage more ACOs to participate and succeed, which would help achieve the goal of having all people with Traditional Medicare in an accountable care relationship with a healthcare provider by 2030.
Improving Access to Colon Cancer Screening
Colon and rectal cancer were the second-leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States in 2020, with higher colorectal cancer death rates for Black Americans, American Indians, and Alaska Natives. To reduce barriers to getting a colonoscopy, CMS is proposing that a follow-up colonoscopy to an at-home test be considered a preventive service, which means that cost sharing would be waived for people with Medicare. Additionally, Medicare is proposing to cover the service for individuals 45 years of age and above, in line with the newly lowered age recommendation (down from 50) from the United States Preventive Services Task Force.
Proposing Payment for Dental Services that are Integral to Covered Medical Services
Medicare Part B currently pays for dental services when that service is integral to medically necessary services required to treat a beneficiary’s primary medical condition. Some examples include reconstruction of the jaw following accidental injury or tooth extractions done in preparation for radiation treatment for jaw cancer. CMS is proposing to pay for dental services, such as dental examination and treatment preceding an organ transplant. In addition, CMS is seeking comment on other medical conditions where Medicare should pay for dental services, such as for cancer treatment or joint replacement surgeries, as well as on a process to get public input when additional dental services may be integral to the clinical success of other medical services.