Tag Archives: ACO

Models, Models, Have We Got Models!

FierceHealthcare.com today reported that CMS (those lovely folks with all them rules), launched three new policies Tuesday that continue the push toward value-based care, rewarding hospitals that work with physicians and other providers to avoid complications, prevent readmissions and speed recovery.

The newly finalized policies are meant to improve cardiac and orthopedic care, and also create an accountable care organization (ACO) track for small practices, according to the report.

There will be three new cardiac care payment models for hospitals and clinicians who treat patients  for heart attacks, heart surgery to bypass blocked coronary arteries, or cardiac rehabilitation following a heart attack or heart surgery.

Federal officials said that the cost of their care…varied by 50% across hospitals and the share of patients readmitted to the hospital within 30 days also varied by 50%. Medicare, the article points out, spent more than $6 billion in 2014 for care provided to 200,000 Medicare patients who were hospitalized for heart attack treatment or underwent bypass surgery.

As for orthopedic care, the new payment model is for physicians and hospitals that provide care to patients who receive surgery after a hip fracture, other than hip replacement.

They also finalized updates to the Comprehensive Care for Joint Replacement Model, which began earlier this year.

So far, that’s three models. But wait, there are more where those came from.

There’s the new Medicare ACO Track 1+ Model, that has a more limited downside risk than other tracks in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (another model I discussed a while back in the post, “Shared Savings ACO Program reaps the most for Primary-care Physicians“).

These new five-year models provide clinicians with other ways to qualify for a 5% incentive payment through the Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) path under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 (MACRA) and the Quality Payment Program. (three more models — so many, in fact, I am losing count)

Why am I pointing out the problem with the release of new payment models?

I’ll tell you why. When I began my MHA (Masters in Health Administration) degree program, I took an online elective on Healthcare Quality. The textbook we read discussed how CMS over a period of several decades, created and instituted so many models and programs, that it made me wonder why our health care system was so complex, expensive and so out of whack compared to health care systems of other industrialized countries.

The answer was simple. Too many models, programs, rules, and so on that only gum up the works and make real reform not only impossible, but even more remote a possibility as more of these inane models are added to what is already a broken system.

Winston Churchill said that you can always count on Americans to do the right thing, after all the other things were tried. We are still on the trying part, and I am afraid we will never get to where Sir Winston said we would.

 

Challenges Remain in Physician Payment Reform

Following up on my post yesterday about shared savings, John O’Shea writes today in the Health Affairs blog, that challenges remain with regard to physician payment reform, now that President Obama has signed the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act (MACRA) in April.

MACRA repeals the Sustainable Growth Rate (SGR) mechanism of updating fees to the Physician Fee Schedule (PFS).

The SGR has been blamed for causing instability and uncertainty among physicians for over a decade, and that led to 17 overrides of scheduled fee cuts, at a cost of over $ 150 billion.

The passage of MACRA, O’Shea wrote, raises new questions about where the US health care system is headed in the post-SGR world of payment and delivery reform.

Yet, before MACRA was signed into law, HHS Secretary Burwell announced a major initiative calling for 30 % of Medicare payments to be value-based through the use of alternative payment models (APMs) by 2016, and 50% by 2018.

HHS also set a goal of tying 85% of all traditional Medicare payments to quality or value by 2016, and 90% by 2018.

O’Shea reported there are reasons for caution. These policy changes, following calls to move from the current volume-based, fee-for-service (FFS) system to a value-based system that pays for patient outcomes, rather than for individual services, present major challenges to achieving the goal of value-based health care, the goal of any real health reform initiative.

One of the APMs O’Shea discussed is Value-based purchasing (VBP), which is the concept behind APMs, includes a broad set of performance-based payment strategies that attempt to use financial incentives to influence provider performance, such as the Shared Savings Program mentioned yesterday.

Another APMs is the Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) [don’t you just love how the government comes up with these abbreviations?], a modified FFS system, which is basically a Pay-for-Performance (P4P) program.

The overall early results of these initiatives, as well as possible flaws, make the long term viability of these models uncertain.

With regard to P4P programs, a 2014 RAND report looked at 49 studies examining the effect of P4P on process and intermediate outcome measures, and found that the overall results were mixed, and that any identified effects were relatively small.

According to the lead author of the study, Cheryl Damberg, “The evidence from the past decade is that pay for performance had modest effects on closing the quality gap.” A basic flaw in the model is the reality that meaningful patient-centered outcome measures remain elusive.

ACOs, as I wrote about yesterday, are another APM; and O’Shea reported that their ability to generate savings to share with participants is so far not encouraging. He points to early results from the Pioneer ACO program that determined that of the 23 ACOs that participated in 2013, only 11 earned any shared savings, which totaled about $41 million. Six ACOs lost a total of $25 million. The results from a similar study in 2014 showed improvement, but the long-term outlook is still unclear.

What is the impact on the practice of medicine?

What O’Shea found was that physicians currently labor under an increasingly burdensome and often meaningless number of reporting requirements that take time away from patients, and fail to help them improve quality of care.

Accordingly, a commentary O’Shea cited from the New England Journal of Medicine said that, “the quality-measurement enterprise in US health care is troubled.”

A recent CMS report, O’Shea mentioned, said that 40% of Medicare providers will face 1.5% cuts for failing to submit data to the Physician Quality Reporting System.

Because of this, many public and private payers are tying larger amounts of provider payments to a growing number of largely meaningless measures.

O’Shea said that there are two areas of concern, given the plethora of payment and delivery reform initiatives: the administrative burden on physicians, and the push towards greater consolidation.

Nearly half, or 46% of doctors who reported said that they felt burned out in 2014. A main reason cited by the physicians was the increasing administrative burden.

What does the mean?

Well, having slogged through an online Health Care Quality course as part of my MHA degree program, the myriad abbreviations mentioned in Mr. O’Shea’s article does not surprise me. CMS and HHS has for years developed all kinds of initiatives and programs to influence and alter behavior of all stakeholders in our health care system.

As “Uncle” Walter Cronkite once said, “America’s health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” And that was before the passage of the ACA.

But for the purposes of this blog, and in keeping with the point of the last article where it was said that what happens in health care affects workers’ comp. then I think you can agree that these initiatives and programs, while well-meaning, may make things worse in the future, but not because the idea behind the ACA or the law itself is bad, but because we Americans cannot do anything right until we try everything else, a la Winston Churchill.

If that is the case, then believing that by doing the same things over and over again, that by following everyone else off the cliff of unregulated, employer-based, multi-payer health care, and by not opening the workers’ comp system to real alternatives, especially for surgery, then nothing will ever change.

We will continue to see more new initiatives and programs from CMS, and the results will be dismal, and the impact on workers’ comp will be felt eventually. That is, unless you open up your minds to new ways of thinking.

———————————————————————————————————————————-

I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com.

Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp.

Connect with me on LinkedIn, check out my website, FutureComp Consulting, and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.

Increase in Physician Fees For Total Knee Replacements Due to Concentration in Orthopedic Markets

Health Affairs issued a study that said that there was a 7 percent increase in physician fees for total knee replacements due to the concentration of orthopedic groups.

According to the abstract, in the period 2001–10, the average professional fee for total knee arthroplasty was $2,537. During this time, in markets that moved from the bottom quartile of concentration to the top quartile, physician fees paid by private payers increased by $168 per procedure.

The increase nearly offset the $261 decline in fees that the authors observed, absent changes in market concentration.

Their findings suggest that caution should be used in implementing policies designed to encourage further group concentration, which could produce similar effects.

What does this mean to you, the employer? It means you are going to pay through the nose for knee surgeries as physician groups grow larger.

What does it mean to the workers’ comp industry? It means you are getting ripped off.

What does this mean for the medical travel industry? It means that you have to prove to US employers and carriers and insurance personnel that you really can save them money on knee surgery, and all other orthopedic surgeries.

Cosmetic, plastic, and other beautification surgeries are ok for some in the medical travel industry to offer, but to be really impactful, the industry must turn its attention to orthopedic surgery, as well as other medical services such as cancer treatment, heart surgery, etc.

That is when you will see increased volume in your businesses, that is when you will see increase numbers of patients, that is when medical travel will become possible for anyone who wants it, not just the well-to-do and those who want to look good.

————————————————————————————————————————————–

I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer interested in saving money on expensive surgeries, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies at (561) 738-0458 or (561) 603-1685, cell. Email me at: richard_krasner@hotmail.com. Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp. Connect with me on LinkedIn and follow my blog at: richardkrasner.wordpress.com. Share this article, or leave a comment below.

 

Accountable Care Organizations May Shift Claims into Workers’ Comp

As reported Monday on the Insurance Information Institute’s blog, Terms + Conditions, and posted by Claire Wilkinson, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) may actually cause millions of claims dollars to be shifted into the workers’ comp system, according to research by the Workers’ Compensation Research Institute (WCRI).

Under the ACA, a mechanism called an Accountable Care Organization (ACO), which was designed to control costs, was used by the researchers at WCRI to estimate the nature of the cost shift, as well as giving a general idea of the magnitude of the shift. They used the ACO’s similarity to Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) in their research.

The ACA calls for the creation of ACO’s, which is a network of doctors and hospitals that share the financial and medical responsibility for a group of patients. The ACO receives a set amount per patient for a year, regardless of the services. This is called a capitated plan.

What the WCRI found by looking at a nationwide sample of more than 700,000 claims from 2008 to 2010, was that about 17 percent came from HMO’s. In those states with a large HMO presence, HMO doctors declared 26 percent of soft tissue injuries into workers’ comp. This was 30 percent higher than doctors in fee for service arrangements.

The Executive Director of WCRI, Dr. Richard Victor, estimated that ACO’s could increase the percentage of workers in capitated plans by 25 percent. Such an increase was determined would allow capitation plans to regain 15 percent of the market it has lost since 2000.

As stated in the blog article, cost-shifting in Illinois would out $90 million of claims into workers’ comp. and in Pennsylvania, it would cost insurers $55 million.

As I’ve said in my post, Workers’ Comp at a Crossroads: Where Does it Go from Here?, and in many other articles, things are not looking up for workers’ comp in the near term and well into the future.

But still, with the handwriting on the wall, and the trumpets blaring that will bring down the walls of the padded cell that is the American workers’ comp system, this industry insists on playing the “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” game.

A conversation I had earlier today with a broker about medical travel and workers’ comp convinced me that at some point there needs to be a safety valve in this system, otherwise it will collapse in on itself.

Shortages of doctors, nurses, rising inpatient and outpatient costs, consolidation of hospitals, and other pressures will mount even greater, and not even the move towards domestic medical travel within the US will be sufficient to alleviate the bottleneck that is coming down the road.

But go ahead and keep running around on that wheel you see in squirrel cages, because in the final analysis, you are all just rats in a maze, with no clue.

————————————————————————————————————————————-

I am willing to work with any broker, carrier, or employer who is sick and tired of being bled by the Wall Street vulture capitalists and the entire medico-legal system known as workers’ comp, to save money, and to provide the best care for their injured workers or their client’s employees, while at the same time, helping to break the monopoly of the American health care cartel.

Call me for more information, next steps, or connection strategies. Ask me any questions you may have on how to save money on expensive surgeries under workers’ comp. Connect with and follow me on LinkedIn and my blog. Share this article, or leave a comment below.