Oct. 26, 2017
Trump Administration declares opioid crisis a public health emergency
The Trump administration declared the opioid epidemic a "national public health emergency" today, which will open up funding for treatment and research. President Trump also directed agency and department heads to use all appropriate emergency authorities to reduce number of deaths caused by the opioid crisis.

The move stops short of declaring the crisis a national emergency, as was advised by the commission to study the opioid crisis headed by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Doing so would free up more funds for treatment, ensure wider access to the anti-overdose drug naloxone and improve monitoring of opioid prescriptions to prevent abuse. The White House said it determined that declaring a public health emergency was more appropriate than declaring a national emergency because a national emergency would have pulled funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund.
"I want the American people to know that the federal government is aggressively fighting the opioid epidemic on all fronts," Trump said.
He also mentioned increasing prescriber education on opioids. The American Medical Association issued a statement calling on physicians to be leaders " in continuing to make judicious prescribing decisions, and by considering the full range of effective therapies for pain, including non-opioid and non-pharmacologic options, co-prescribing naloxone, helping patients access medication-assisted treatment for opioid use disorder and removing stigma."

The Colorado Medical Society has been working for five years, along with other provider organizations and state government at the legislative and executive levels, to address this crisis. CMS urges all Colorado physicians to take action by reading CMS's " 7 Strategies to Achieve Safe Opioid Prescribing" and implementing these steps in their practices.
AMA study finds health insurers consolidation increasing nationwide
The 16th edition of the AMA annual report -- " Competition in Health Insurance: A Comprehensive Study of U.S. Markets " -- examined market concentration in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and 389 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) and found that in 43 percent of MSAs one insurer had at least a 50 percent share of the market.

"We find that the majority of U.S. commercial health insurance markets are highly concentrated," the report concludes. "Our findings should prompt federal and state antitrust authorities to vigorously examine the competitive effects of proposed mergers between health insurers."

Federal CMS adds third way to participate in QPP
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services recently released the Proposed Rule guidelines for a third way to participate in the QPP MIPS track starting in 2018. If physicians are thinking of pursuing this participation option, they must apply before Dec. 1, 2017. If you have questions or need help, contact Courtnay Ryan at cryan@telligen.com.

As proposed in the 2018 Quality Payment Program proposed rule, solo practitioners and groups can choose to participate in the
Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) as a virtual group for the 2018 performance period. To form a virtual group for 2018, solo practitioners and groups need to engage in an election process. For the 2018 MIPS performance period, the election period for virtual groups to make an election is from Oct. 11, 2017 to Dec. 1, 2017.

What is a Virtual Group?
The federal CMS has proposed a virtual group to be a combination of two or more Taxpayer Identification Numbers (TINs) made up of:
  • A solo practitioner who's eligible to participate in MIPS and bills under a TIN with no other National Provider Identifiers (NPIs) billing under the TIN, OR
  • A group with 10 or fewer eligible clinicians (at least one must be eligible for MIPS) that joins with at least one other solo practitioner or group for a performance period of a year.
How do I form a Virtual Group?
To form a virtual group, CMS has proposed a two-stage virtual group election process:
  • Stage 1 (optional): Solo practitioners and groups with 10 or fewer eligible clinicians may contact their designated Technical Assistance representative or the Quality Payment Program Service Center to determine if they are eligible to join or form a virtual group.
  • Stage 2: For groups that choose not to participate in Stage 1 of the election process, the federal CMS will determine if they are eligible in Stage 2. During Stage 2, the virtual group must name an official representative who will submit their election to the agency via email to MIPS_VirtualGroups@cms.hhs.gov by Dec. 1, 2017.
The election would include:
  1. A written formal agreement between each of the virtual group members; and
  2. Information about the TIN and NPI associated with the virtual group representative's contact information.
For more information about joining or forming virtual groups, see the Virtual Groups Toolkit.

Need help with the election process?
Contact the Quality Payment Program at QPP@cms.hhs.gov or 1-866-288-8292 (TTY: 1-877-715-6222). You can also contact your local support organization for support.
ADEMS/CMS event: Almost everything you know about the opioid epidemic isn't enough
The Arapahoe-Douglas-Elbert Medical Society and Colorado Medical Society invite you to attend "The Opioid Crisis in Colorado & U.S.: Almost everything you know about the opioid epidemic isn't enough" with speaker Robert J. Valuck, PhD, RPh, FNAP. Join us for an open conversation with this leading expert on root causes and a long-term fix.

Thursday, Nov. 16, 2017
6 p.m. - Reception; 6:30 p.m. - Dinner / Program
Glenmoor Country Club
110 Glenmoor Dr., Cherry Hills

Why attend?
Physicians are in a direct spotlight when it comes to the opioid epidemic, which has been categorized as one of the greatest challenges facing health care today. While we are not the sole reason for the epidemic's alarming reach that crosses all demographics, physicians have a role in reducing opioid misuse and abuse in our patients.

Dr. Valuck's presentation during the CMS Annual Meeting received glowing feedback:
  • "This was the most amazing, thorough and well-organized talk on the opioid epidemic I have ever
    heard. Dr. Rob is outstanding. We should package his talk into several smaller talks to take them
    on the road to our members."
  • Awesome!! Very thorough.
  • This presentation should be available for any CMS member. It really alerted me to the depth of
    problem and since then I have had multiple conversations with many colleagues.

Don't miss your opportunity to see this outstanding presentation. Register now!

Free webinar: "The Feds Are Coming! Reducing Physician Risk When Prescribing Pain Medication" - Nov. 1, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.
Concerns with the opioid crisis are at a fever pitch - understandable given that opioid overdose led to the deaths of 33,000 people in the United States in 2015, almost half of which involved prescription opioids.
Governmental and health-related agencies are devoting significant energy and resources to reduce the quantity of controlled substances being prescribed. Concurrently, the DEA and Department of Justice have made enforcement relating to opioid prescribing a top priority by focusing on clinics, pharmacies and prescribing physicians.
Practicing physicians need useful guidance in caring for patients for whom the use of prescription pain control is absolutely essential. The second part of a free two-part webinar series - The Feds Are Coming! Reducing Physician Risk When Prescribing Pain Medication - will provide practical guidance from health care lawyers at Polsinelli and the physician education experts at the Center for Personalized Education for Physicians (CPEP). The webinars will be held on Nov. 1, 11 a.m. - 12:15 p.m. Click here for more information and to register.
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