Medicare launches primary-care initiative

Medicare announced a new initiative Wednesday that will give primary-care doctors extra payments for better coordinating their patients' care.

Participating doctors will receive bonus payments averaging $20 per patient per month. After two years, they'll be able to share in the savings the program generates for Medicare.

Many studies suggest that more efficient primary care helps lower costs in the long run by emphasizing prevention and cutting down on redundant or unnecessary procedures. The new Medicare initiative will ask doctors to focus on patients with chronic diseases, work closely with patients' families and help coordinate among specialists.

Medicare intends to test the voluntary program in five to seven parts of the country.

"Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, we are helping primary care doctors better coordinate care with patients so they get better care and we use our health care dollars more wisely," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.