​​​​​​​CMS launches chronic care management initiative

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has launched an education program aimed at encouraging more providers to take advantage of Medicare reimbursements for chronic care management services.

The Connected Care initiative includes toolkits for both providers and partner organizations to better understand the program and how to code for those benefits. The program began in January 2015, and further adjustments to the physician fee schedule to account for chronic care coordination kicked off at the beginning of this year.

The toolkits are part of a partnership between CMS Office of Minority Health and the Federal Office of Rural Health Policy at the Health Resources and Services Administration, which represent populations that often are most in need of coordinated care services, according to CMS. Connected Care focuses on racial minorities and rural patients.

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“This important initiative builds on our efforts to help providers care for patients with multiple chronic conditions,” Cara James, Ph.D., director of Office of Minority Health, said in the announcement. “We are excited to be working with the Health Resources and Services Administration to reach vulnerable populations.”

Two-thirds of Medicare beneficiaries have at least two chronic conditions, and one-third have four or more comorbidities. However, despite the need for coordinated care management for this population, many physicians have not used CMS’ reimbursement program, as they must ask patients for permission to use the billing codes. Many decline because of the 20% copay, an issue that came up at CMS’ provider town hall (PDF) in late February about the program.

In addition to the toolkits, CMS released a set of informational cards and posters available in both English and Spanish that providers can use to educate patients on care coordination and encourage them to participate. Additional patient education resources and support will be released in the coming weeks.

Though care coordination can reduce costs and improve quality of care for a variety of patients, as many as half of patients may not actually experience the benefits.