Senators seek to refocus QIOs

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A new bill would streamline the role of quality improvement organizations and transfer some of their current responsibilities to other entities.

Under the bill (S. 1947), QIOs would have a primary role as technical assistants for quality improvement and performance measurement. Other responsibilities, such as complaint investigations, would be transferred to other entities known as Medicare Provider Review Organizations. CMS contracts with QIOs to improve the quality of healthcare providers, including nursing homes. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced the legislation, which builds on CMS efforts to revamp the $400 million-a-year program.

Besides refining the mission of QIOs, the legislation would establish conflict-of-interest standards for QIOs. Grassley has questioned the effectiveness and independence of QIOs.

A summary of the bill is available at http://finance.senate.gov/press/Bpress/2007press/prb080207a.pdf.