How urgent care centers fit into coordinated care networks seemed to be foremost on the minds of Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) staff when representatives of the Urgent Care Association of America (UCAOA) sat down for a meeting with them on June 17 in Washington, D.C.
MedPAC is an independent congressional agency that advises the U.S. Congress on issues affecting the Medicare program, including access to care and quality of care. Each year, MedPAC issues two reports to Congress, which serve as the primary vehicles for Commission recommendations.
In its annual March report, MedPAC provides an examination of Medicare payment adequacy for physicians and other healthcare professionals by assessing, among other things, beneficiary access to care. MedPAC uses a number of measures to assess access, including focus groups and interviews with beneficiaries and providers. In this year’s March report, it was noted that in the 2014 focus groups beneficiaries discussed, more so than in previous years, using urgent care centers for routine and urgent primary care. Consequently, focus groups are being supplemented this year with one-on-one interviews with providers at urgent care centers. UCAOA is working to identify urgent care center representatives in targeted cities across the country for these interviews.
Upon learning of MedPAC’s interest in gaining a better understanding of urgent care centers, UCAOA requested and was granted a meeting with D.C.-based MedPAC staff, at which UCAOA was represented by UCAOA Immediate Past President Nathan Newman, MD, FAAFP, and UCAOA Health and Public Policy Committee Member Robert Graw, Jr., MD, both of Maryland-based Righttime Medical Care.
The discussion topics at the June meeting with MedPAC staff ranged from the relationship between urgent care centers and the medical home, to the distinguishing characteristics of urgent care centers compared to physician offices, retail clinics and free-standing emergency departments.
“Urgent care centers are in the crosshairs of evolving healthcare payment and delivery systems,” said Dr. Newman. “Meeting with MedPAC is just one example of what we can do as a community to influence the perceptions of payers and policymakers about urgent care centers and the value they bring to the healthcare system.
The next round of MedPAC’s public meetings will kick off in September and will culminate with the issuance of MedPAC’s 2016 reports.