April 29, 2021
Central to the controversy about ACOs’ potential for Value-Based Care is whether they actually save enough money and reduce costs fast enough. Researchers and advocates have produced various independent studies of ACO savings, the most generous estimating $1.8 billion in cumulative savings over the first three years of the program, almost double CMS estimates. Many others, however, dismiss the small proportion of savings—at a few percentage points—relative to total Medicare spending. The previous CMS administration was clearly dubious about the shared savings model. It favored payment models that put providers at financial risk to increase cost reduction incentives, even though…Read More
April 14, 2021
Why ACOs Need a New Playbook
A lot has happened in health care since 2012, when final rules permitted provider-organized ACOs to be the driving force of Value-Based Care under the 2010 Affordable Care Act (ACA). As we pass the ACA’s eleventh anniversary, a dwindling number of Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) ACOs are entering a new phase marked by higher expectations and more difficult economics. To succeed in this challenging environment, ACOs will need different tools going forward than first contemplated, because of competition, both from providers under new value-based payment models and from Medicare Advantage plans. They also face more skepticism. Although rule changes…Read More
March 18, 2021
With Competing Payment Models on Hold, What’s the Future for ACOs?
When CMS first announced new primary care payment models in April 2019, ACOs understood that their future might be threatened by competition for both physicians and patients. If medical groups could independently contract with Medicare under these models, they would have the advantage of greater control over their physician network, referral arrangements, and clinical decisions. The Value-Based primary care models of Direct Contracting (DC) and Primary Care First (PCF) were presented as a strategy to fortify primary care and independent practitioners. By combining prospective payment, quality monitoring, and incentive pools for lowering admissions and total costs, providers could potentially reap…Read More
August 26, 2020
Straight Talk for Providers Adopting Capitation: Don’t Fly Blind Without the Right Data
Value-Based Reimbursement—once focused on incentives and shared savings—now more often means capitation. Whether adopting Medicare Alternative Payment Models (APMs) or contracting with health plans, physician groups and health systems have signaled greater willingness to adopt these new Risk payment models with their guaranteed payments for attributed patients. But here's the problem: If you don't have good data on your costs, you are flying blind. Let’s look at the myths and realities of what you really need both to measure your success under global capitation and to ensure that your Risk program is on track to be successful. Do You Need…Read More
March 11, 2020
Value-Based Care Defined: Know the Vocabulary of Health Care Reform
Today, as we confront a viral threat that is challenging our health system, its capacity, and how care is financed, it seems appropriate to review some fundamentals. Health care reform has been speeding down a particular track, changing how health care is covered, paid, delivered, and organized. These reforms may seem to be about health care financing, but will make a future difference in health care access and patient outcomes. Medicare is driving the train with its huge budget and rulemaking capabilities. But insurance companies, in lockstep, are rapidly implementing similar changes. Understanding all those changes is no easy task.…Read More
February 27, 2020
ACO Path to Viability: Direct Contracting May Be the Opportunity
What if your best route to viability was the high-risk path you feared the most, because that failure might destroy you? That's the question Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) have been asking this week—whether to participate in Medicare's new Direct Contracting (DC) initiative. With a shift in payments from Fee for Service (paid per-provider service), to Global Capitation (paid per-beneficiary), DC completely changes the incentives for the health care system. Whether Direct Contracting is a boon or a bust to ACOs depends on their ability to control the costs of patient care long-term—and whether they have the leverage to do so.…Read More
January 22, 2020
Can Hospitals Still Lead Health Care Under Risk?
As the millennium's third decade begins, Risk has taken hold as THE strategy for tackling health care costs. Virtually overnight (in health care years) the industry has moved—albeit not uniformly—to accept Risk. This transition is already beginning to impact hospitals and hospital-based systems, and raises serious questions about the viability of their role as the primary financial engine bankrolling health care operations, reforms and modernization. Just one year ago, the concept of provider risk in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) was anathema to most participants. Despite initial misgivings, however, most ACOs remained in the system after CMS pushed forward with its…Read More
July 24, 2019
Can ACOs Survive the Complicated New Landscape in Medicare Risk?
What a difference a year makes. In Spring 2018, many Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) pondered a walkout over Medicare plans that included downside risk in ACO financials. Nonetheless, CMS finalized its plans to make provider risk a reality for all ACOs in its Pathways to Success overhaul of the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). ACOs’ lukewarm reception to the goal of compelled savings, however, was not forgotten. Fast forward to April 2019, when CMS announced five Primary Care Models to propel physician groups to adopt risk-based reimbursement directly—including capitation. Those models are now under fast-paced implementation, with application deadlines approaching.…Read More
June 26, 2019
Follow the Pathway to PCP Success In Medicare Direct Contracting
Primary care physicians were sitting on the sidelines as Medicare developed financial risk models in various generations of ACOs. At best, they could only hope to participate in Medicare Advantage and/or join a larger ACO. But potential for financial gain was elusive when the physicians’ success depended on the actions of others to achieve savings. Now Medicare is offering a carrot to large primary care practices with its new Direct Contracting (DC) models, luring them with the possibility of capturing higher and more predictable revenues as well as shared savings. CMS recently announced an initiative to test risk-based reimbursement models…Read More
May 8, 2019
How Will New Primary Care Models Affect Providers in VBHC?
Embraced by some provider groups and disparaged by others, CMS’s five new payment models for practices focused on primary care include much to consider. All reflect a key departure of Medicare’s Value-Based Health Care (VBHC) efforts to date: they are direct efforts by Medicare to transition physician practice revenues to risk without the necessity of ACO participation. The primary care models will affect both providers and patients. In this article, we’ll address the provider issues. How patient choice of care and outcomes for patients and patient populations will be affected deserves dedicated scrutiny in a future post. No Surprise that…Read More