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New funding opportunities announced at Health Datapalooza Conference. HHS officials opened the Health Datapalooza Conference in Washington by announcing several funding opportunities to advance data access and interoperability. National Coordinator for Health IT Dr. Karen DeSalvo said ONC is making $1.7 million in funding available to improve standards for patient access and interoperability. Meanwhile, HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced a challenge to encourage designers, developers, tech companies, and healthcare organizations to design a simpler, easier-to-understand medical bill for patients. Vice President Joe Biden also spoke at the Health Datapalooza conference, where he criticized “data silos” and called for the creation of an open national network that will let researchers access health information.

CMS releases updated Physician and Other Supplier Utilization and Payment public use data. On May 5th CMS posted the third annual release of the Physician and Other Supplier Utilization and Payment public use data, which contain summarized information on Medicare Part B services and procedures provided to beneficiaries. The updated 2014 dataset has information for over 986,000 distinct healthcare providers. The dataset can be accessed here.

After years of resistance, CMS signals support for inclusion of UDIs on Medical claims.  In testimony before Congress this week, CMS acting Administrator Andy Slavitt said that CMS would like to see the incorporation of unique device identifiers in EHRs and claim forms, although he also said that incorporating UDIs will be challenging in terms of funding and educating physicians to use them.  Former CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner last year pushed back against requiring UDIs on claims forms, saying this would be complicated and expensive, and Slavitt’s remarks are seen by many onlookers as a change in position.

CMS announces Regional Innovation Days this month in Dallas, Baltimore. CMS last week announced two Regional Innovation Days for May. The CMS Region 6 Office will host a Regional Innovation Day in Dallas, Texas, on May 23rd. Stakeholders are invited to discuss innovations that transform healthcare. The CMS Region 3 Office will host a Regional Innovation Day in Baltimore, Maryland, on May 24th. The event will focus on the CMS Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative. Registration for the Dallas event and the Baltimore event is now open.

PTAC proposes process for stakeholder submission, evaluation of new payment models.   The Physician-Focused Payment Model Technical Advisory Committee (PTAC), the 11-member committee authorized by MACRA to evaluate new physician-focused alternative payment models, convened last week in Washington.  In its second public meeting, the PTAC proposed a multistep procedure for evaluating new payment models submitted by physician groups and other stakeholders.  Under the proposed process, submissions for review will be assigned to a smaller team of 2-3 members, with at least one member of the team being a physician. The team will be able to discuss the proposal with other committee members and CMS staff, and technical experts, as appropriate.  After an internal review that will include questions to the submitters, the proposal will be scored as part of the evaluation.  The model proposal will eventually be presented to the full committee during a public meeting, and the lead reviewer will announce the committee’s decision on whether to recommend the model to CMS.

Next ACA open enrollment period to include quality rating pilot program. CMS announced on April 29th that the Affordable Care Act open enrollment period for 2017 will feature a pilot program displaying quality star ratings for marketplace plans. The program will launch in five states – Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin – and will also offer standardized “Simple Choice Plans” with uniform deductibles and out-of-pocket limits. CMS will use feedback on the pilot to develop quality rating information for nationwide use.