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New Medicare Rules Should Help 'High Need' Patients Get Better Treatment

By Kaiser Health News  
   December 22, 2016

Cognitive Impairment Assessment
Making a dementia diagnosis is difficult, and primary care physicians often fail to do so on a timely basis. But new Medicare policies may help change that by specifying what cognitive examinations should entail and offering enhanced payments.

Physicians who conduct these evaluations are now expected to meet 10 requirements. In addition to performing a careful physical exam and taking a detailed history, they need to assess an older adult's ability to perform activities of daily living, their safety, behavioral and neuropsychiatric symptoms, and caregivers' knowledge, needs and abilities.

All the medications the senior is taking should be evaluated, and standardized tests used to assess cognition. Efforts to elicit the patient's goals and values need to occur in the context of advance planning, and a care plan must be crafted and shared with caregivers.

Medicare will pay $238.30 for the initial assessment and additional fees for creating a care plan and performing care management.

"Hopefully, this will kick start the development of practices that provide these dementia-related services," said Dr. Robert Zorowitz, senior medical director at OptumCare CarePlus, a managed Medicare long-term care program in New York City.

Care Between Patient Visits
Until now, the rule has been: if the doctor is with a patient, he can bill for his time. But if he takes home medical records to review at night or talks by phone with a caregiver who's concerned about her elderly mother, that time goes unpaid.

That will change next year: Medicare will begin paying $113.41 for the first hour spent in these kind of activities and $54.55 for every subsequent half hour.

For the first time, "this recognizes the significant and valuable services that physicians perform in between face-to-face visits," said Dr. Phillip Rodgers, co-chair of the public policy committee at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine.

Kaiser Health News is a national health policy news service that is part of the nonpartisan Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.


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