By JUDITH GRAHAM – December 22, 2016
Doctors have complained for years that they’re not paid adequately for time-consuming work associated with managing care for seriously ill older patients: consulting with other specialists, talking to families and caregivers, interacting with pharmacists and more.
That will change on Jan. 1, as a new set of Medicare regulations go into effect.
Under the new rules, physicians will be compensated for legwork involved in working in teams — including nurses, social workers and psychiatrists — to improve care for seniors with illnesses such as diabetes, heart failure and hypertension.
Care coordination for these “high need” patients will be rewarded, as will efforts to ensure that seniors receive effective treatments for conditions such as anxiety or depression.
Comprehensive evaluations of older adults with suspected cognitive impairment will get a lift from new payments tied to the standards that physicians now will be required to follow.
The new Medicare policies reflect heightened attention to the costliest patients in the healthcare system — mostly older adults who have multiple chronic conditions that put them at risk of disability, hospitalization, and an earlier-than-expected death. Altogether, 10 percent of patients account for 65 percent of the nation’s health spending.
It remains to be seen how many physicians will embrace the services that the government will now reimburse. Organizations that advocated for the new payment policies hope they’ll make primary care and geriatrics more attractive areas of practice in the years ahead.