Federal Policy Updates

For state specific policy head to State Policy Updates

27 Organizations, led by PCC and NAACOS, Urge CMS to Create Primary Care Hybrid Payment Option in MSSP

For Media Inquiries: Edward Walrod, Senior Communications Manager, PCC, [email protected]

In a March 22nd letter, 27 diverse organizations that support primary care  including the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC) and the National Association of ACOs (NAACOs), called on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to establish a new hybrid primary care payment option in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).  Building on the recommendations of PCC's Better Health-NOW campaign, this new approach would offer practices a combination of prospective and fee for service payments to bring better health outcomes, greater equity, and lower costs to patients and providers.

The United States is systematically underinvesting in primary care, leading to erosion of the primary care workforce and a greater number of U.S. residents without a usual source of care, according to recent findings. In the letter, PCC, NAACOs and other signatories urge CMS to implement the hybrid payment model in MSSP this year – arguing that it is  critical that we change how and how much primary care is paid to give patients the better health they deserve.


The PCC joins the Smarter HealthCare Coalition in Supporting the Reintroduction of the Chronic Disease Management Act (S. 655)

On March 6, 2023, the Smarter HealthCare Coalition, of which PCC is a member, sent a letter to Senate leadership expressing support for the reintroduction of the Chronic Disease Management Act (S. 655). The Coalition represents a broad-based, diverse group of health care stakeholders, including consumer groups, employers, health plans, life science companies, provider organizations, and academic centers.

Access to high-value health care services is an area of focus for the Smarter Health Coalition including work to ensure that the millions of Americans in High-Deductible Health Plans with Health Savings Accounts have access to services and medications to manage chronic conditions on a pre-deductible basis.

The bill would ensure high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) that are used with health savings accounts (HSAs) can cover care related to chronic disease management prior to a beneficiary reaching their plan deductible. The bill would also help address the impacts of chronic diseases by allowing patients that are enrolled in HDHPs greater flexibility in accessing the care they need.

Amidst a Tough Season for Primary Care, There Could Be Better Weather Ahead

This winter has been hard for primary care practices - and for the health of their patients. 

 A confluence of flu, RSV, and resurgent COVID challenged a primary care platform already weathering nearly three years of COVID and mental health challenges.  

Unfortunately, primary care’s situation today is no accident of nature; decades of policy choices have left many practices, particularly those in underserved communities, in fee-based reimbursement systems that do not adequately recognize their contributions. No matter the community we live in, this systematic underinvestment in primary care undermines our shared goal of better health. Congress’ year-end omnibus legislation, with its Medicare fee cut and phase-down of value-based care incentives, added insult to injury.  These retrenchments were balanced in part by helpful telehealth, mental health, children, and maternal health provisions. 

Yet in this New Year, there are signs of optimism with at least some policymakers having heard PCC's message: this nation’s health depends on changing how and how much we invest in primary care: 

  1. Education and Training: With the first 200 additional medical residency slots funded by Medicare since 1996, the Department of Health and Human Services allocated nearly three out of four to primary care including obstetrics/gynecology as well as psychiatry. This follows $13 million in HRSA nursing workforce investments last year
  1. Medicaid: The Center for Medicaid and CHIP Services will now provide federal matching dollars if state Medicaid programs reimburse for interprofessional consultation and initiatives to address unmet, health-related social needs – important steps to serving complex Medicaid populations in the primary care setting 
  1. MedPAC: Congress’ designated advisors for Medicare payment voted to recommend a new bonus for safety net practices: 15% for primary care compared to 5% for other specialties 
  1. State Capitols: Just a few days into 2023’s state legislative sessions, PCC’s brand-new State Primary Care Investment Hub already shows Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nevada, and Oklahoma legislators introducing bills to measure and/or strengthen primary care investment – joining 19 states that have already taken steps to do so. 

Could these rays of winter sunshine portend a broader break in the weather for federal primary care policy?  We await with anticipation the expected HHS Action Plan to Strengthen Primary Health Care and this year’s Medicare and Medicaid rulemaking to show that policymakers are taking significant steps to strengthen the primary care platform as a key lever to improve the health of the nation. In the meantime, PCC’s Better Health – NOW Campaign will keep insisting federal policymakers chart a bolder course in primary care – one that delivers better health for all our families and communities. If your organization is not yet involved, contact Larry McNeely at [email protected]

Medicaid Moves to Ease Impacts of Post-Emergency Disenrollments

The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in numerous federal policies and temporary flexibilities, some of which directly impacted Medicaid eligibility and enrollment. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Medicaid and CHIP program enrollment grew by nearly 29 percent, between February 2020 and September 2022. As of September 2022, over 90 million people were enrolled in Medicaid and CHIP

The enrollment growth is largely due to states’ implementation of continuous enrollment and receiving a temporary bump in Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) support in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.  

As we emerge from the declared public health emergency, The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued an update to states to help them maintain continuity of coverage as they navigate the looming expiration of COVID-19 flexibilities and policies. For example, states will have 12 months at the end of the declared emergency to resume regular enrollment and verification operations.  

PCC Convenes Member Working Group to Chart Course on Medicaid Policy

Next month, with support from the California Health Care Foundation, PCC is convening a small group of  external experts and advocates drawn from PCC Executive Membership – charged with identifying effective Medicaid strategies that improve primary care utilization and outcomes.  The working group’s formation follows a new level of PCC engagement on Medicaid and CHIP issues in 2022. (See HERE and HERE

Informed by an environmental scan of levers for change at the federal and state levels and the deliberations of this working group, PCC plans to release an issue brief and identify policy options for consideration by PCC’s Better Health – NOW campaign.  Stay tuned for more later this year. 

As State Legislators Gather, PCC Launches New Primary Care Investment Information Hub

For Media Inquiries: Edward Walrod, Senior Communications Manager, PCC, [email protected]   

As State Legislators Gather, PCC Launches New Primary Care Investment Information Hub 

January 17, 2023 (Washington, D.C.)- With state legislatures gaveling in across the country, the Primary Care Collaborative (PCC), with support from the Milbank Memorial Fund, launched a new web-based State Primary Care Investment Hub - a collection of information and analysis to help state care advocates, researchers, and officials reorient their states’ health systems towards primary care. 

The site’s new searchable web tool includes a growing number of states – 8 coming online in 2022 and now numbering nearly two out of five -- that have recently passed legislation or taken administrative action to measure and/or enhance primary care investment. PCC, a nationwide, multi-stakeholder non-profit, non-partisan membership organization, sees an opportunity for further progress in state Capitols. As recently as 2018, just two states had passed such legislation, Oregon and Rhode Island. 

“Evidence from a 2021 National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine report makes it crystal clear: primary care is the only part of the health system where more investment results in better population health and more equity,” said Ann Greiner, President & CEO of the Primary Care Collaborative. “State policymakers that invest in primary care are investing in an evidence-based solution to many of their and our current health care challenges.”  

The new web tool, available through PCC’s homepage, will act as a hub for policymakers, advocates, researchers, and primary care providers, with access to original PCC research, published primary care investment reports from states, and updates on legislation introduced around the country. PCC also organizes regular calls with stakeholders and policymakers on this issue. 

For primary care practices and communities buffeted by overlapping epidemics, recent state-level progress is welcome, according to PCC Director of Policy, Larry McNeely. “2023 will bring new momentum if states look at the evidence. They will find that primary care is foundational to health in all communities It is an exciting time for primary care investment.” 

Advocates and state officials alike can access this tool and all the information about this growing trend --- embraced by blue and red states alike: https://www.pcpcc.org/primary-care-investment   

Accessing information about primary care has never been easier or faster! Scan here:  

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PCC CEO Ann Greiner Responds to Congress' Failure to Stop Primary Care Payment Cuts

Statement by Ann Greiner, President and CEO of the Primary Care Collaborative, Regarding Congress’ Failure to Prevent Medicare Primary Care Pay Cuts in the Omnibus (pdf)

“Despite purporting to ‘fund the government,’ Congress now seems ready to defund every primary care practice serving Medicare Part B patients through across-the-board Medicare payment cuts.

“A few precious hours away from adjournment, lawmakers and stakeholders ought to be trumpeting bipartisan wins around mental health, cost-sharing relief, and maternal health.  They should be celebrating these wins as early progress toward the bolder policy changes needed to shore up primary care.

“Instead, a penny-wise, pound-foolish approach to budgeting will undermine the viability of small, independent and rural primary care practices, especially those in underserved communities.  And as with the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) of the past, the resulting perennial payment uncertainty will hamper the transition to integrated mental health and new models of population-based payment. 

“No matter who we are or where we live, primary care is foundational for the health of our families and our communities. It is the one part of health care that consistently improves outcomes and reduces gaps across populations.  

“Congress should #stopthefullcut to Medicare primary care. America’s primary care practices and their Medicare patients deserve nothing less.” 

PCC's Better Health-NOW Campaign Backs Key Provisions of Senate Mental Health Integration, Workforce Bills

On December 8th, the Primary Care Collaborative and its Better Health - NOW Campaign backed key elements of draft Senate Finance mental health integration and workforce proposals.

In the U.S. today, the specialty behavioral health delivery system is overwhelmed by increasing suicide rates, accelerating rates of substance use disorder deaths, and a tripling in the prevalence of depressive symptoms since the beginning of the pandemic. Moreover, noted disparities in mental health by age, rurality, and economic circumstances exist alongside other alarming trends by racial/ethnic group. In 2019, suicide was the second leading cause of death for Black individuals aged 14-24.

Contributing factors to suicide among Blacks may include untreated mental illness and continued exposure to violent crime, violence, and accumulated trauma. Suicide rates are higher for American Indian/Alaska Native populations compared to other racial groups, and those rates have increased since 2010. In another dimension of the crisis, age-adjusted rates of drug-induced deaths among the Black population not only matched but exceeded rates among the white population in 2019, after a decade in which those rates had been largely lower than whites.

Leveraging team-based primary care that includes behavioral health integration is fundamental to addressing today’s mental health and addiction crises and the nation’s future health. Today, more mental health care is rendered in the primary care setting than anywhere else, including the mental health care sector, continuing a trend that has existed for four decades.

Therefore, we applaud the Finance Committee’s bipartisan work toward a comprehensive response to America’s behavioral health crises and support the provisions identified here.


PCC and Better Health – NOW Campaign submit comments on Medicaid eligibility and enrollment proposed rule

In a letter submitted November 8, PCC and the Better Health-NOW Campaign commented on specific provisions of a Medicaid and CHIP eligibility and enrollment proposed rule aimed at enhancing continuity of primary care and reducing cost-sharing barriers.

Health coverage disruptions, and cost barriers can disrupt the continuity of care that is essential to quality primary care and improved health outcomes, especially for the vulnerable individuals and families who are eligible for Medicaid and CHIP.

The letter offers specific support for:

  • Streamlined eligibility and redetermination in Medicaid and CHIP
  • Improved eligibility processes for Medicare Savings Programs, which defray Medicare premium and cost sharing costs
  • Prohibitions on lock-outs and waiting periods in state CHIP programs

The letter goes on to recommend broader improvements urgently needed to enhance primary care investment and support behavioral health integration in Medicaid and CHIP.

Read the full letter here.

PCC Joins 800 Stakeholders, Urging Congress to Renew Advanced Payment Model Incentives

PCC joined more than 800 health care associations, accountable care organizations (ACOs), medical practices, and health systems to urge Congressional leaders to extend incentive payments meant to encourage participation in risk-bearing alternative payment models (APMs), in a letter released on September 28, 2022. Those incentives expire at the end of the year unless Congress acts.

Congress in 2015 created a 5 percent incentive payment to support  new payment models. While there are nearly 300,000 clinicians expected to receive the incentive this year, that number is far below Congressional expectations when the incentives were established. Therefore, the letter calls on lawmakers to extend the incentives to allow more time for a greater number of practices to move into APMs, which have shown an ability to improve quality and lower overall cost of care. 

Failure to renew the incentives could deter participation in a range of primary care payment reform initiatives, including the Primary Care First, state primary care payment reform initiatives like the Maryland Primary Care Program, the Medicare Shared Savings Program, and private sector primary care initiatives. “Ending these important incentive payments would discourage future participation in models that have seen growing uptake in recent years,” the letter states. “The incentive payments...provide additional resources that can be used to expand services beyond traditional fee-for-service.” 

Read the full letter here.

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