Risk Insider: Jason Beans

Medicare Paves the Way

By: | April 12, 2016 • 2 min read
Jason Beans is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rising Medical Solutions, a medical cost management firm. He has over 20 years of industry experience. He can be reached at [email protected]

While it’s uncommon to think of Medicare blazing a trail anywhere, it is certainly at the forefront of value-driven health care. As of January 1, 2016 the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) deployed 10 alternative payment models that increasingly tie healthcare payments to value.

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With the ACA as a catalyst for change, Medicare is making assertive advances to replace the fee-for-service model we all know and love. Recent/upcoming activities include:

  • New Bundled Payment Plan for Joint Replacements – On April 1st, CMS launched its bundled payment initiative that’s designed to eliminate the significant geographic variance in reimbursements for inpatient total joint procedures.
  • First Set of Core Measures Used as Basis for Quality Payments – In February, CMS released seven sets of clinical quality measures to be used for value-based care.
  • Merit-Based Incentive Payment System (MIPS) – In January, CMS met its 2016 goal of shifting 30 percent of fee-for-service payments to value-based reimbursements; in 2018, they’re committing to 50 percent.
  • Physician Quality Reporting System (PQRS) Initiative – In 2017 physicians will receive negative payment adjustments for not satisfactorily reporting quality metrics to CMS.

One outcome of Medicare’s advancements that particularly caught my eye was reported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) in November 2015.

Their research indicates that hospital-acquired conditions (HAC’s) decreased 17 percent between 2010 and 2014, from 145 to 121 per 1,000 discharges, while readmission rates dropped 8 percent.

This resulted in an estimated 87,000 lives saved, and a cost reduction of $19.8 billion. These dramatic results occurred during a period of concerted effort by hospitals to reduce adverse events spurred by Medicare’s move toward value-based payment models.

Currently, the best fit for workers’ comp is Medicare’s Bundled Payment models, which set a single rate for services during an episode of care. This concept is certainly not unfamiliar to workers’ comp.

While these numbers certainly illustrate the business aspect of health care, more than that, they illuminate the striking financial and quality impact that value-based models can have on healthcare delivery.

Most compelling is that the 2010-2014 programs that drove these drastic improvements were largely Medicare’s pilot forays into value-based care.

Now that Medicare is fully implementing these programs, imagine the impact broader application could have in areas like workers’ comp.

At their foundation, value-driven models reward high quality and cost effective patient care. While Medicare has many models, there are four basic forms, three of which—Affordable Care Organizations (ACOs), Merit-Based Incentive Payment Systems (MIPS), and Capitated Rates—pose major obstacles for most workers’ comp payers today. All require significant patient volume to mitigate the providers’ risk and administrative burden, historical data and benchmarking efforts, and direction of care capabilities.

Currently, the best fit for workers’ comp is Medicare’s Bundled Payment models, which set a single rate for services during an episode of care. This concept is certainly not unfamiliar to workers’ comp.

The simplest (and oldest) model is DRGs, where hospitals are paid a flat rate for a diagnosis/procedure, regardless of treatment. We’ve also long seen case rates for physical therapy.

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Surgical episodes provide an ideal opportunity to employ bundled payments for all treatment associated with a given procedure. Other creative iterations of value-based payments could be used as well, such as the Ohio BWC’s program for knee injuries.

While there is no fast-track to value-based care in workers’ compensation, there are certainly steps we can and should take today. With Medicare paving the way through proven models and successful outcomes, it’s time we bring what’s working elsewhere into our world.

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The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected]