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AMA, CMS Leaders Signal New Era of Cooperation

   January 14, 2016

A joint appearance by leaders from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services and the American Medical Association may signal an important cultural shift in how the two organizations work together over the next few years.

When leaders from the AMA and CMS speak, healthcare leaders listen (usually it's to find out what new regulation CMS is rolling out and what the AMA plans to do about it). But typically the two organizations do not speak together—physicians and hospitals are usually cast as the long-suffering cross bearers of CMS red tape.

That dynamic may be changing.

On Monday, CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt and AMA CEO and EVP, Jim Madara, MD, appeared together at J.P. Morgan's annual Health Care Conference in San Francisco. During their individual remarks and the 20-minute question and answer session that followed, both Slavitt and Madara said they were committed to work together.


Andy Slavitt

"The AMA and CMS share a motivation to empower physicians to deliver higher value care with reduced regulatory burden that frees resources to be put toward patient use," Madara said.

Slavitt recognized the frustration physicians voiced last year about what seemed like a mountain of new regulations and rules. "We have to get the hearts and minds of physicians back," he said.

Slavitt also announced—to the delight of CIOs and physicians everywhere—that meaningful use is on its way out. He noted that CMS has been working with the AMA to replace it with what Madara called "a more aggregated program."

"Physicians are motivated by patient care and things they believe in," Madara said. "If they're asked to do box-checking on process measures … it really deteriorates the relationship and the system between the physician community and the regulators."

The transition away from fee-for-service payments is on the horizon for CMS. The Department of Health and Human Services announced in 2015 that it is aiming to tie nearly all of its Medicare reimbursement to value and/or quality by 2018. According to Madara, leaders at various physician organizations are aware of this massive change in payment structure, but average physicians are not.

"Rolling this out is probably not the way to go," Madara said. He believes it's up to the AMA to develop a tool that physicians can use to direct patients to the most appropriate care. "The AMA needs to do that."

AMA's Tech Venture
The tool Madara described may be one of the products the AMA's new startup, Health2047, is working on now. The for-profit, C-corporation, is based in San Francisco, and is meant to connect technological innovation with input from physicians to solve practical problems. The AMA is a founding partner of Health2047 and has invested $15 million so far.

Jacqueline Fellows is a contributing writer at HealthLeaders Media.

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