Although congressional Democrats were forced to scale back proposals to cut Medicare spending, they still managed to include a provision in the new health reform law that would create an agency to examine changes to how Medicare operates, CQ Weekly reports.
The new health reform law creates a new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation by 2011. CMI, under the jurisdiction of CMS, will develop and test pilot programs designed to decelerate the rising cost of Medicare and improve the program. The reform law dedicates $10 billion through fiscal year 2019 for pilot projects.
According to CQ Weekly, CMI might launch programs that would:
- Distribute federal money to states to test out single-payer programs, which would be administered by a state agency and be covered by a unified plan;
- Create teams of medical professionals to provide assistance for primary care physicians caring for patients with chronic ailments;
- Establish electronic systems that would allow specialists to remotely monitor seriously ill Medicare beneficiaries at local hospitals;
- Create a program that encourages physicians to take up salaried positions at medical institutions rather than independent medical practices, which often are more difficult to regulate; and
- Test a bundled-payment system in which physicians are paid for the total care of a patient rather than for individual services.
If successful, HHS could expand the pilot programs without congressional approval as long as they do not increase costs or negatively affect the quality of patient care.
CMI officials also could use the recommendations of a new independent Medicare payment commission to expand its programs (Adams, CQ Weekly, 4/6).