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
April 5, 2021
5 Value-Based Behavioral Health Strategies for ACOs and Medical Group Models
For ACOs and Direct Contracting Medical Groups adopting value-based payment models, behavioral health is often overlooked. But your patients’ unmet behavioral health issues are a big cost driver for emergency care and inpatient admissions, and they compound risk factors in disease. They also influence your patients’ adherence to treatment plans. You may believe this is a problem you can’t resolve because behavioral health is beyond the boundaries of your participating network. Even so, you need to be aware of a significant emerging trend: integrating behavioral health in primary care. The difference between physical medicine’s approach to disease versus behavioral health…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
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
October 30, 2019
Is Patient Lock-In the Next Step in Value-Based Care?
Hoping to safeguard survival under financial risk, health care providers are courting a contentious issue: how patients select primary providers. During the HMO heyday , health care risk economics depended on patient selection of primary providers as part of coverage selection that “locked” them into those PCPs and their referral networks. PCPs operated as gatekeepers to the rest of the health care system, authorizing services (or not) for specialists and other care. It’s well known that the HMO’s Primary Care gatekeeper model generated a backlash among private sector consumers. In fact, the gatekeeper was so unpopular with patients that it…Read More
August 14, 2019
Five Actions ACOs Should Take Now: Takeaways from Proposed CMS Rulemaking
Last week CMS released a proposed rule addressing revisions in the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS) and the Quality Payment Program (QPP), along with a few other matters. Of 1,704 pages, only about 20 addressed ACOs issues directly. But ACOs should take a holistic approach to reading this proposed rule, as well as the proposed Outpatient Prospective Payment System (OPPS) rule. Competition Among Risk Models Will Strongly Affect the Course of Change With so many CMS programs and models now in flux, the whole is more than the sum of its parts. It’s worth the effort to pay attention to the…Read More
July 10, 2019
Can Medicare Primary Care Risk Models Work in Today’s Practice Environment?
There’s now no doubt that Medicare is eager to move forward with Value-Based Health Care and risk-based reimbursement. CMS has rolled out major changes to make Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) risk-bearing and add attractive benefits to capitated Medicare Advantage plans. Add to that two new classes of Primary Care Risk Models that introduce risk-based reimbursement into the general provider population, which, CMS says, are designed to stimulate primary care: Primary Care First (PCF) and Direct Contracting (DC). But we also know, from early CMS statements on direct contracting, that it intended to find other mechanisms to move physicians into Value-Based Health…Read More