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CMS Makes $10M Available to Support MACRA Implementation

A new CMS grant providers up to $10 million in funding over three years to support MACRA implementation by providers.

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

- The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) is redoubling its efforts to support providers with MACRA implementation.

MACRA implementation support funding

The federal agency today announced a new grant that makes up to $10 million available over the next three years to fund the second round of the Support and Alignment Networks (SANs) under the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative (TCIP).

"Through this initiative, the Support and Alignment Network 2.0 awardees will identify, enroll, and provide tailored technical assistance to advanced clinician practices in an effort to reduce Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) program expenditures by supporting practices through the phases of transformation and enhancing the quality, efficiency, and coordination of care they deliver," the federal agency said.

As a whole, the TCIP initiative has six goals, including supporting more than 140,00 clinicians in achieving practice transformation and improving health outcomes for 5 million Medicare, Medicaid, and CHIP beneficiaries.

In a companion post on the official CMS blog, Acting Principal Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer Patrick Conway, MD, MSc, describes how TCIP and SANs will assist participants in the Quality Payment Program — comprising the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) and Alternative Payment Models (APMs):

TCPI helps more clinicians to improve quality, coordinate care, and spend dollars more wisely by providing peer-to-peer support to primary and specialty physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, clinical pharmacists, and their practices. For clinicians that elect to participate in MIPS, this support will help them be successful. Participating networks also disseminate best practices and provide technical assistance and coaching to practices that are moving towards participation in APMs.

The grant notice lists a variety of organizations that are eligible to apply for SAN funding, such as health systems, health plans, and medical societies that meet five criteria:

  1. presently provide quality improvement support to a large number of clinicians;
  2. are multi-regional or national in scope;
  3. are involved in generating evidence-based guidelines for clinical practice;
  4. are effectively using measurement through clinical registries and electronic health records; and
  5. are committed to expanding action to improve safety and person and family engagement.

In order to submit a competitive application, applicants are advised to "have signed commitments to enroll a minimum of 5,000 eligible clinicians and their practices that are in advanced states of readiness to deliver high quality care at lower costs" and aren't currently enrolled as Practice Transformation Networks (PTNs).

An overview of SANs by CMS describes their duties as providing "a system for workforce development utilizing national and regional professional associations and public-private partnerships that are currently working in practice transformation efforts" and making use of tools such as continuing medical education, maintenance of certification, and core competency development toward achieving that aim.

Currently, the number of SANs totals ten organizations:

  • American College of Emergency Physicians
  • American College of Physicians, Inc.
  • HCD International, Inc.
  • Patient Centered Primary Care Foundation
  • The American Board of Family Medicine, Inc.
  • Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement
  • American College of Radiology
  • American Psychiatric Association
  • American Medical Association
  • National Nursing Centers Consortium

Awards are estimated to be made by September 1 and could range from $500,000 to $2.5 million, with a performance period running from Sept. 21, 2016 through Sept. 20, 2019. The application windows opens today, June 10, and letters of intent should be submitted by July 1.

For familiar with Stage 1 Meaningful Use, TCIP and SANs resembles the regional extension center (REC) program funded by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology to support eligible professionals through their meaningful use journey, which the RECs did with aplomb.

"As a practicing physician, I know the importance of quality improvement support and sharing of best practices to help clinicians transform their practice and deliver outstanding care to every patient," writes Conway. "CMS encourages all qualified entities to apply for the Support and Alignment Network 2.0 funding opportunity so that we can continue to build on the successes we have made so far."

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