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CMS Funds to Help Rural Practices in Quality Payment Program

The federal agency will invest close to $100 million in funding to assist rural physicians and small practices participating in the Quality Payment Program.

Technical assistant for eligible clinicians in Quality Payment Program

Source: HHS

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- As part of a five-year program to support individual physician and small practices participating in the Quality Payment Program, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services awarded $20 million to 11 organizations.

Over the remaining four years of the program, the federal agency will contribute as much as $80 million in additional funding to assist eligible clinicians in these settings, especially those working in rural and medically underserved areas.

“Clinicians in small and rural practices are critical to serving the millions of Americans across the nation who rely on Medicare for their health care,” said CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Center for Clinical Standards and Quality Kate Goodrich, MD, said in a public statement.

“Congress, through the bipartisan Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, recognized the importance of small practices and rural practices and provided the funding for this assistance,” she continued, “so clinicians in these practices can navigate the new program, while being able to focus on what matters most — the needs of their patients.”

The organizations receiving funding will be responsible for providing hands-on training and education about the Quality Payment Program to small practices:

According to the announcement, the training and education resources will come at no cost to eligible clinicians and their practices and be available immediately throughout the US.

Enacted in 2015, MACRA empowered CMS to establish the Quality Payment Program, which offers eligible clinicians to pathways to earn performance-based payment adjustments: the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Advanced Alternative Payment Models.

CMS released the final rule for the Quality Payment Program as part of MACRA implementation last October. Prior to publishing the rule, the federal agency announced additional flexibility for eligible clinicians during the first year of the program —pick-your-pace.

"During 2017, eligible physicians and other clinicians will have multiple options for participation," said former Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. "Choosing one of these options would ensure you do not receive a negative payment adjustment in 2019. These options and other supporting details will be described fully in the final rule."

This more recent announcement on an approximate $100 million in funding for small practices in the Quality Payment Program makes good on a separate previous of the original MACRA legislation to provide technical assistance. Similarly, CMS is reminding providers of its new telephone helpline to assist eligible clinicians participating in the Quality Payment Program.

“The Secretary shall enter into contracts or agreements with appropriate entities (such as quality improvement organizations, regional extension centers (as described in section 3012(c) of the Public Health Service Act), or regional health collaboratives) to offer guidance and assistance to MIPS eligible professionals in practices of 15 or fewer professionals,” the enacted legislation states.  

What’s more, CMS must give priority to eligible clinicians working in these practices in rural, health professional shortage areas, and medically underserved areas. CMS also has the responsibility for evaluating the impact of this technical assistance and making recommendations for improving its effect on eligible clinicians to Congress.

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