Integration of physician practices into health systems composed of hospitals and multispecialty practices is increasing in the era of value-based payment. It is unknown how clinicians who affiliate with such health systems perform under the new mandatory Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) relative to their peers.
To assess the relationship between the health system affiliations of clinicians and their performance scores and value-based reimbursement under the 2019 MIPS.
Publicly reported data on 636 552 clinicians working at outpatient clinics across the US were used to assess the association of the affiliation status of clinicians within the 609 health systems with their 2019 final MIPS performance score and value-based reimbursement (both based on clinician performance in 2017), adjusting for clinician, patient, and practice area characteristics.
Health system affiliation vs no affiliation.
The primary outcome was final MIPS performance score (range, 0-100; higher scores intended to represent better performance). The secondary outcome was MIPS payment adjustment, including negative (penalty) payment adjustment, positive payment adjustment, and bonus payment adjustment.
The final sample included 636 552 clinicians (41% female, 83% physicians, 50% in primary care, 17% in rural areas), including 48.6% who were affiliated with a health system. Compared with unaffiliated clinicians, system-affiliated clinicians were significantly more likely to be female (46% vs 37%), primary care physicians (36% vs 30%), and classified as safety net clinicians (12% vs 10%) and significantly less likely to be specialists (44% vs 55%) (P < .001 for each). The mean final MIPS performance score for system-affiliated clinicians was 79.0 vs 60.3 for unaffiliated clinicians (absolute mean difference, 18.7 [95% CI, 18.5 to 18.8]). The percentage receiving a negative (penalty) payment adjustment was 2.8% for system-affiliated clinicians vs 13.7% for unaffiliated clinicians (absolute difference, -10.9% [95% CI, -11.0% to -10.7%]), 97.1% vs 82.6%, respectively, for those receiving a positive payment adjustment (absolute difference, 14.5% [95% CI, 14.3% to 14.6%]), and 73.9% vs 55.1% for those receiving a bonus payment adjustment (absolute difference, 18.9% [95% CI, 18.6% to 19.1%]).
Clinician affiliation with a health system was associated with significantly better 2019 MIPS performance scores. Whether this represents differences in quality of care or other factors requires additional research.