Bipartisan bill aims to extend program that helps rural docs participate in Quality Payment Program

A new bipartisan, bicameral bill seeks to extend a program that helps rural providers participate in the Quality Payment Program.

The legislation, introduced Wednesday, seeks to extend the Small Practice, Underserved and Rural Support Program (SURS), which is set to end Feb. 15. The program helps rural and underserved practices participate in the Merit-based Incentive Payment System (MIPS).

“Small healthcare providers in rural and underserved areas don’t have the big administrative staffs to deal with complex Medicare reporting requirements,” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, one of the co-sponsors of the SURS Extension Act. “This legislation gives support to small practice docs so they can focus on providing the best quality care for their communities.”

The Quality Payment Program was created in 2015 under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act, aiming to offer performance-based payment adjustments.

SURS was created to help those in practices that have 15 or fewer providers and placed a special emphasis on rural areas. Since the program’s inception in 2017, it has helped 107,250 clinicians a year, according to a release on the legislation.

“This program has been successful in providing the technical support needed to navigate reporting requirements for rural and underserved physicians who want to transition to value-based care,” said Rep. Michael Burgess, R-Texas, in a statement.

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The legislation has earned major plaudits from physician groups such as the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA).

Practices in medically underserved areas already operate on thin financial margins, and smaller practices are more likely to get a neutral or negative payment adjustment under MIPS, said Anders Gilberg, senior vice president of government affairs for MGMA, in a statement.

“We cannot take away the critical technical assistance that supports these vulnerable practices by helping them navigate the complex and ever-changing regulations,” Gilberg added.