Medical practices wary of insurer efforts on new payment programs

By Victoria Stagg Elliott
American Medical News, December 3, 2012

Medical practices have a low opinion of how insurers are operating emerging payment programs, such as accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes, shared savings and payment bundling, according to a survey of 800 practices released Nov. 14 by MGMA-ACMPE.

Researchers asked practices to rate the willingness of seven large payers to engage in innovative models on a scale of one, meaning completely unwilling, to five, which indicates completely willing. Medicare Part B scored the highest at 1.95, and United Healthcare was the highest private payer at 1.82.

When asked to rate the favorability of these payment models to the practice on a scale of one to five, Medicare Part B scored highest at 1.68.

Health industry insiders said the scores on innovative payment models reflect physicians’ frustrations with programs they believe were not designed for their specialty or size, and that insurers were not flexible in negotiating terms.

ACOs serve 25 million to 31 million patients, a “remarkable achievement for a care arrangement that was scarcely on the map at all two years ago,” according to a report released Nov. 26 by management consulting company Oliver Wyman.

Cigna’s collaborative accountable care program includes 42 participating entities, mostly large, with about 10,000 physicians providing care for 400,000 members. A paper in the November Health Affairs found the plan’s ACO program improved quality and lowered costs.…


Practice Perspectives on Payer Performance, 2012


For the fifth year in a row, the Medical Group Management Association (MGMA) has conducted its poll to determine group practice professionals’ attitudes about payer interactions.

Of the payers who are willing to engage in innovative payment models (accountable care, shared savings, medical homes or payment bundling), how favorable or unfavorable do you consider these options to be to your practice?

Rating average / Payer

1.68  Medicare Part B
1.62  United Healthcare
1.62  Aetna
1.58  Cigna
1.57  Anthem
1.55  Humana
1.48  Coventry

(Based upon a 5 point scale where 1 = Completely unfavorable, 2 = Moderately unfavorable, 3 = Neutral, 4 = Moderately favorable, and 5 = Completely favorable.)


A Collaborative Accountable Care Model In Three Practices Showed Promising Early Results On Costs And Quality Of Care

By Richard B. Salmon, Mark I. Sanderson, Barbara A. Walters, Karen Kennedy, Robert C. Flores and Alan M. Muney
Health Affairs, November 2012

Cigna’s Collaborative Accountable Care initiative provides financial incentives to physician groups and integrated delivery systems to improve the quality and efficiency of care for patients in commercial open-access benefit plans.

Although not statistically significant, these early results revealed favorable trends in total medical costs and quality of care.

These early results should sound the alarms on our current efforts to implement accountable care organizations (ACOs). We’ve barely begun and already about 30 million patients have been assigned to ACOs. Yet look at how that is working.

Health care professionals in group practices were polled on how favorable or unfavorable the insurers’ innovative payment models, primarily ACOs, were to their practices. The average rating for all insurers was in the 1s – “completely unfavorable”!

Further, we are now seeing the same response from the insurers that we did with earlier efforts at managed care. They were telling us then that we were receiving higher quality care at lower cost. As it turned out, costs continued to rise and quality remained mediocre.

Now Cigna is reporting that the recent Health Affairs article that they authored showed that their “ACO program improved quality and lowered costs.” Yet the article actually states that these early results were “not statistically significant.”

This turkey has already taken off, and yet it can’t fly. The health care of 30 million patients is already at stake, and they are being cared for health care professionals who find the arrangement COMPLETELY UNFAVORABLE!