Monday, February 2, 2015

CMS and Health Reform: More of the Same

Whoa, with breathless media coverage like this (dramatically change! ambitious!) you'd think that the Feds had just announced something important about health reform. 

After reading the CMS press release, a CMS blog post and this article in the New England Journal, the Population Health Blog has concluded that it's more of the same. 

As the PHB understands it, Medicare's January 26 announcement is that it will build on three ongoing reforms:

1. Financial incentives to expand "alternative payment" methodologies to 30% of all reimbursement by 2016 and to 50% by 2018.  These include accountable care organization arrangements, monthly fees to Patient Centered Medical Homes and use of bundled payments.  In addition, 85% of fee-for-service payments that are still in place will be linked to quality by 2015, with an increase to 90% by 2018.

2. Promoting "provider integration." That apparently means a new forum called the Transforming Clinical Practice Initiative, with a first yet-to-be-planned meeting in March of 2015.  In addition, CMS will continue to rely on its Partnership for Patients and the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute.

3. Information technology (IT) including more promotion of electronic records, meaningful use, interoperability and universal information technology standards.


The cynical PHB is not impressed. The Obama Administration was using, is using and will continue to use faux announcements to advance its reforms.  What's more, when it reads the CMS pabulum, it's riddled with the same top-down mainframe rhetoric on realigning care, moving from volume to value, accountability, alternative payment models, serving populations, building a better system, increasing coordination, convening meetings, promoting information technology etc. There are no new details here.

The PHB will share three insights, however:

1. CMS, Ms. Burwell and their White House handlers lost an opportunity to reach out to the Republicans about the sustainable growth rate and leveraging that to build on multiple areas of agreement to jumpstart bipartisan reform.  Doing so could have accelerated the forward momentum of value-quality-cost-based reforms beyond the 2016 elections.

2. That being said, health care providers need to increase their familiarity with the opportunities as well as perils of payment reform as well as the very real barriers to fixed payment schemes.

3. The announcements are a reminder how CMS is still fixated on the EHR, while the real innovation is occurring in handhelds and their associated applications.  The PHB figures that its not about the providers and their desktop electronic records, but about patients and their smart phones. As these devices continue to grow in speed, power and sophistication, providers who figure out how to use the iPlatform to leverage self-care, communication and decision support will thrive.....

With or without Medicare's incentives, promotion or IT policies.

Image from Wikipedia

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