Feds to spend $20M to help small practices prepare for new payment system


Individual and small group practices will be able to take advantage of on-the-ground training and education to get ready for the government’s new quality payment system, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said in an announcement Monday.

The government will provide $20 million per year for the next five years to fund training and education on the new payment system being implemented under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA), for individual or small group practices with 15 or less clinicians who receive Medicare funds, HHS announced.

HHS has proposed a new payment program to implement the new MACRA law, which replaces the unpopular Sustainable Growth Rate formula and changes how Medicare pays physicians and other clinicians. HHS issued a proposed rule in April that critics worry will hurt small physician practices because of its complex performance reporting system. Members of a congressional committee in May told Andrew Slavitt, acting administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, that the government must fix the proposed rule so the payment system is fair to all physicians and doesn’t make it difficult for small practices to survive.

The funds will help provide hands-on training tailored to small practices, especially those in under-resourced areas of the country, including rural areas, those with shortages of health professionals and medically underserved areas, HHS said.

“Doctors and healthcare providers in small and rural practices are critical to our goal of building a healthcare system that works for everyone,” said HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell in the announcement. “Supporting local healthcare providers with the resources and information necessary for them to provide quality care is a top priority for this administration.”

HHS will spend a total of $100 million, paying organizations to provide free customized training to clinicians as well as education and consultation services. The training will help practices determine what quality measures and electronic health record may be appropriate to meet their needs, HHS said.

The new Quality Payment Program created under MACRA will offer physicians two paths: the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, known as MIPS, and Advanced Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

Organizations will train clinicians about the new clinical practice improvement activities required by the new payment system and how they can fit into their practice’s workflow. Training will also help practices evaluate their options for joining an APM, according to the announcement.

- read the announcement