Small Practices Get Boost to Meet New Medicare Quality Payment Law

Groups seeking grants under the new program must show how they can train small practices without charging the doctors or their practices.

HHS today set aside $100 million over the next 5 years to train primary care practices of 15 clinicians or less in the particulars of the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, or MACRA. The funds will be especially targets at physicians who serve rural areas and other places with physician shortages, according to an announcement from the department.

Passed last year to get rid of the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) and push the nation’s doctors away from fee-for-service reimbursement, MACRA calls for folding existing value-based payment efforts into a more streamlined program. But smaller practices have lacked the resources to invest in training and technology to embrace value-based care, which healthcare experts say has led to consolidation and a loss of practices that met the needs of lightly populated areas.

Funds announced today, which will be spent in $20 million installments each year, are designed to counteract that trend. “Doctors and health care providers in small and rural practices are critical to our goal of building a health care system that works for everyone,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell. “Supporting local health care providers with the resources and information necessary for them to provide quality care is a top priority for this administration.”

To receive funds for the Quality Payment Program, organizations must show their ability to offer doctors customized training at no cost to the doctors or the practice.

“The bipartisan MACRA legislation gave us the tools to improve Medicare and make it modern and sustainable by improving the incentives for and lowering the burden on clinicians,” said Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, acting principal deputy administrator and chief medical officer CMS. “Real change must start from the ground up, and today’s announcement recognizes this reality by getting doctors the resources they need to provide better, smarter care.”

Specific steps that groups seeking grant money would take in working with small practices include:

· Helping them decide what quality measures to include in their electronic health record (EHR) for reporting purposes. MACRA calls for doctors to tailor reporting measures to their individual practices.

· Training physicians about clinical practice improvement activities, and how these fit into the workflow

· Helping them understand their options for taking part in an Alternate Payment Model, a more flexible reimbursement option under MACRA.

Awardees will be announced by November 2016. HHS encourages all qualified organizations to apply for this funding. To learn more, click here.