January 29, 2020

Cortez Masto, Portman Introduce Legislation to Continue Technical Assistance Program for Small and Rural Physician Groups

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) introduced legislation to ensure that small and rural physician practices participating in Medicare’s new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) have access to the technical assistance they need to comply with program rules. MIPS requires physicians to complete complex reporting in order to be eligible for Medicare payments and raises. This bill will help rural and small practices that are struggling to comply with these reporting requirements, whether it be because of complicated program rules, outdated computer systems or limited staff resources.

“Medicare’s new reporting requirements are critical to ensuring care quality and protecting taxpayer dollars,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “But, far too many small physician practices and doctors serving rural communities in Nevada and throughout the country may be penalized by the new rules because they lack the resources to comply with complex new paperwork requirements. This legislation will give our health care providers the technical assistance they need to prioritize their patients and comply with federal regulations. I’ve seen firsthand how hard Nevada’s physicians serve their rural communities, oftentimes with limited resources and small staffs, and they deserve every resource possible to efficiently deliver health care to Nevadans.”

“Small and rural physicians often do not have the time to serve their patients to the best of their abilities while also putting in the time to learn and comply with Medicare’s latest requirements,” said Senator Portman. “This bill helps reduce the administrative burden on these providers to ensure they more effectively support patients in their communities.”

BACKGROUND:

The Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) updated the way Medicare pays physicians by creating a new payment system that shifted the focus from the volume of care to the value of care provided. The new Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) requires physicians to report to Medicare on their care quality, cost efficiency and other details in order to be eligible for payments and bonuses from Medicare. To ensure that small and rural physician practices weren’t unduly penalized as a result of the complexity of the new system, Congress designated $20 million per year from 2015-2019 for technical assistance to help small and rural practices learn the new system and make the changes necessary to comply with the law. Though this assistance expired at the end of 2019, recent reports have found that small rural practices are still struggling to fully participate in the new payment program, due in part to a lack of resources.

Senator Cortez Masto’s legislation, the Technical Assistance for Small and Underserved Providers to Prevent Oversights and Refocus on Treatment Act (TA SUPPORT Act),would reauthorize this technical assistance through 2025 to help small rural physicians comply with the federal Medicare reporting and payment regulations and ensure they don’t receive negative payment adjustments because of technical difficulties. Additionally, it would require the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to submit a report to Congress on the progress of practices that have received technical assistance.

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