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Federal Government Affirms $100M in Funding to Help Small Practices with Quality Payment Program

February 17, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has affirmed the awarding of approximately $20 million to 11 organizations for the first year of a five-year program to provide on-the-ground training and education about the Quality Payment Program, under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) for clinicians in individual or small group practices of 15 clinicians or fewer.

CMS said in an announcement that it intends to invest up to an additional $80 million over the remaining four years. According to the press release, “These local, experienced, community-based organizations will provide hands-on training to help thousands of small practices, especially those that practice in historically under-resourced areas including rural areas, health professional shortage areas, and medically underserved areas. The training and education resources will be available immediately, nationwide, and will be provided at no cost to eligible clinicians and practices.”

This funding was actually first announced when the government issued the MACRA final rule last fall, and stated at the time, “Beginning December 2016, local, experienced organizations will offer free, on-the-ground, specialized help to small practices using this funding.” The announcement today awards the contracts to the following organizations to provide the on-the-ground training and education to small practices:

  • Altarum
  • Georgia Medical Care Foundation (GMCF)
  • HealthCentric
  • Health Services Advisory Group (HSAG)
  • IPRO
  • Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement (NRHI)
  • QSource
  • Qualis
  • Quality Insights (West Virginia Medical Institute)
  • Telligen
  • TMF Health Quality Institute

The selected organizations will provide customized technical assistance to clinicians and practices to help them be successful in the Quality Payment Program. For example, clinicians will receive help choosing and reporting on quality measures, as well as guidance with all aspects of the program, including supporting change management and strategic planning and assessing and optimizing health information technology, CMS stated.

There has been significant discussion about MACRA’s potential impact on small practices. In the final rule, CMS said that it was taking additional steps to aid small practices, including: reducing the time and cost to participate, excluding more small practices (the new policy will exclude an estimated 380,000 clinicians), increasing the availability of advanced APMs (alternative payment models) to small practices, allowing practices to begin participation at their own pace, and changing one of the qualifications for participation in advanced APMs to be practice-based as an alternative to total cost-based. Those practices which fall below the requirements of at least $30,000 Medicare Part B charges or 100 Medicare patients are exempt from participating in 2017.

This funding is one part of a multi-level outreach effort to help clinicians understand and provide feedback about the new Quality Payment Program, CMS said. Through webinars and in-person presentations, thousands have received free training and education from CMS staff since the Quality Payment Program Final Rule was released last October. In addition, through the established Quality Innovation Networks, the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiatives, and the Alternative Payment Model Learning Systems, every clinician in the Quality Payment Program can receive in-person training, including information about the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, as well as the Alternative Payment Model track.

CMS also launched a new telephone helpline for clinicians seeking assistance with the Quality Payment Program. Clinicians may contact the Quality Payment Program by calling 1-866-288-8292 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. EST or emailing qpp@cms.hhs.gov.

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