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The Features Of A Bundled Payment For Care Improvement Project

Many health care provider organizations have not been overly eager to jump onto the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) bandwagon, citing high startup costs and uncertain returns on investment given the complexity of the program.  Well, recently, the CMS Center for Innovation has announced the Bundled Payment for Care Improvement initiative.  This initiative incorporates elements of earlier CMS demonstration projects — the gainsharing demos and ACE (acute care episode) bundled payments demonstrations which the HealthBlawger has helped a number of clients around the country qualify for in the past — and builds on the broad authority granted to the CMS Center for Innovation under health reform.

The advantages to proceeding with a Bundled Payment for Care Improvement project include the opportunity to participate in CMS shared savings programs while only providing limited commitment of organizational resources, i.e., limited to one or more discrete service lines or episodes of care.  Of course, investments in a culture of collaboration must be made, but the system-wide investment in IT and other infrastructure at the level called for in order to qualify as an ACO would not necessarily be required in order to proceed with this initiative.

There are a number of different models open to participants, and nonbinding letters of commitment are due as early as late September.

From the CMS Center for Innovation announcement: Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Major Boston Health Care System To Acquire Local HMO

Kingkong.jpg (480×320)Partners Health Care (the dominant provider network in Greater Boston) and Neighborhood Health Plan (a local mostly-Medicaid HMO) just announced that the former intends to acquire the latter, and maintain it as a separate operating entity.  No money will change hands between the parties, but an unspecified amount of money will be given by Partners as grants to community health centers where NHP members receive much of their health care services. Gary Gottlieb, CEO of Partners, graciously allowed that it would not seek to interfere with the current referral patterns of NHP members to the two local safety-net hospitals (which get disproportionate share hospital payments; Partners hospitals do not).

The deal is contingent on several layers of regulatory review, including Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

The Massachusetts Experiment Analyzed: Provider Payments Based On Their Negotiating Strength, Not Quality Of Care

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley released her office’s second annual report, An Examination of Health Care Cost Trends and Drivers (PDF; see also press release), which contains a wealth of critical data analysis — and also highlights how little we know about certain things — providing some important context for the discussion of the proposed Part III of Massachusetts health reform, a bill filed by Governor Patrick which would create all-payor ACOs and a system of global payments.

At this late date, few would argue against a move a way from fee-for-service reimbursement for health care, or adding quality metrics to the mix, and tying financial rewards to providers to their performance measured against these metrics.  (Consider the Massachusetts Blue Cross Blue Shield ACQ (alternative quality contract) experience.)  The AG’s report, however, highlights the wide disparities in payments to providers based on negotiating strength, rather than quality or cost of care (as noted in last year’s AG report; check out the 2009 special commission report, too). Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

Accountable Care Organizations: Global Payments To Replace Fee For Service?

Federal health reform and Massachusetts health reform may find a point of convergence in the development of ACOs (accountable care organizations) and the payment mechanisms that will make them tick (or hum, or do whatever it is that we want them to do).  The Federales will be holding a listening session next week on the issues raised by ACOs across the HHS and FTC landscapes.  Meanwhile, back in Boston, the inner circle of health care regulators and the regulated community are busy hashing out an approach to global payments that could be ready for prime time by January 1.

The need for payment reform in Massachusetts has been well-documented — see the health care market report from the AG’s office, as well as an earlier report on the imperative to keep insurance risk on insurers and place performance, or quality, risk on providers.  Now, this may be easier said than done, but we’ve got some of the best and brightest working away at the issue.

Unfortunately, the Massachusetts legislature blinked, and has not mandated the approach across the board — at least not yet.  Initially, the global, or bundled, payment for episodes of health care approach is being tentatively applied to just a couple of types of episodes of care. (See Section 64 of Chapter 288 of the Acts of 2010 – the small group market reform legislation enacted this summer.) Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at HealthBlawg :: David Harlow's Health Care Law Blog*

The Problem With The Newly-Launched “”

If a website touted misleading healthcare information, you’d hope the government would do something about it. But what do you do when the government is the one feeding the public bad information?

Last week the Obama administration launched the new It’s mostly an online insurance shopping website. It’s very much a federal government version of sites like or Massachsetts’ HealthConnector site, which have been around for years.

So when HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, in announcing the new site, claims it gives consumers “unprecedented transparency” into the healthcare marketplace, you should wonder what she means. But that’s not the big problem with this site. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at See First Blog*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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