News in Brief: Week of Dec. 19-23

December 21, 2011 04:50 pm News Staff

This roundup includes the following news briefs:

Project Will Test Home Health Delivery for Patients With Chronic Diseases

CMS has announced( it will roll out a new demonstration project aimed at testing the effectiveness of delivering primary care services in a home setting to Medicare patients with multiple chronic conditions.

Physicians or nurse practitioners who provide primary care home health visits as part of their medical practices are invited to submit applications( to participate in the Independence at Home project by Feb. 6. As many as 50 practices will be chosen and can earn incentive payments if they provide high-quality care and reduce Medicare expenditures.

Practices must serve at least 200 fee-for-service Medicare patients who have multiple chronic conditions and functional limitations. Practices chosen for the project will be responsible for patient care coordination with other health and social service professionals.

CMS Prepares to Launch Pioneer ACO Model in January

CMS has selected 32 organizations to participate in a Pioneer Accountable Care Organization, or ACO, initiative that will reward funds to organizations based on how well they coordinate and manage care and lower costs within the ACO model.

The Pioneer ACO Model(, which is funded as part of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, is specifically designed for groups of physicians and other providers with experience working together to coordinate patient care. The initiative will test the effectiveness of several payment models, allowing participating ACOs to move from the prevailing fee-for-service model to one based on the value of care, according to CMS.

A variety of entities will participate in the initiative, including physician-led organizations, health systems, urban and rural organizations, and organizations in various parts of the country. According to CMS, the Pioneer ACO initiative will cover about 860,000 Medicare beneficiaries and could save as much as 1.1 billion in Medicare costs during the next five years. The first performance period of the Pioneer ACO will begin Jan. 1.

Report Highlights Federal Food Safety Efforts

The federal government recently announced( that it has issued an updateon the accomplishments and strategies of the Food Safety Working Group. The Federal Food Safety Working Group Progress Report( contains highlights of the group's progress toward preventing foodborne illness and enhancing food safety surveillance and compliance in the United States. The report also highlights the food safety working group's agenda through 2012 and beyond.

The working group, which was established in 2009 as a federal interagency project, is chaired by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack. The report outlines the efforts of the working group to increase coordination and collaboration among the federal agencies responsible for food safety enforcement.

The report also records efforts to safeguard the nation's food supply and provide consumers with clear information about the foods they purchase, including development of a food safety website that provides a centralized source of information on food safety issues( The site offers resources to physicians who want to direct patients' attention to current food recalls, tips on how to safely handle and serve food, and discussions on how to prevent foodborne illness.