Partners CEO Dr. Gary Gottlieb
(For related news stories, see WBUR here — Blue Cross, Partners Finalize Deal To Slow Premium Hikes — and the Boston Globe here.)
If I were writing the rough draft of current Massachusetts health reform history, this would be my intro:
On Oct. 5, 2011, it became clearer than ever that Massachusetts would indeed march forward toward payment reform, moving away from traditional “fee for service” and toward giving doctors annual budgets for a patient’s overall care.
Whatever now happened in the political arena, the reality on the ground was already shifting dramatically. On Oct. 5, Partners HealthCare — the state’s largest hospital system and largest employer overall — officially announced that it would enter a global payment plan offered by Blue Cross. The behemoth of Massachusetts medicine was throwing its tremendous weight and resources behind the move toward global payments. What had been a growing scatter of promising experiments was now going ever more mainstream.
Rough drafts of history aside, and though only about 200,000 patients will be initially affected, I do have the feeling that this is a significant moment in health reform, locally and perhaps nationally, too. How did this come to be? I asked Partners CEO Dr. Gary Gottlieb. His reply, slightly condensed:
There are two elements. One is that, as we’ve told you, we’ve been working on our strategy since I started, and that has focused on both care redesign and population management. And an essential part of population management is managing high-risk populations.
We believe that in order for health care to be redesigned in a way that is patient- and family-centered, we need to move away from transactional fee for service, and sharing risk with a payer provides the opportunity to use resources more effectively.
‘Do I think Partners’ moving into this is a sentinel moment?’
It has the potential to be able to focus on individual patient needs and to design care in a way that moves away from transactional and disorganized care. And the AQC [The Blue Cross global payment plan] is the first opportunity in that regard.
We need payment mechanisms that are consistent with the appropriate redesign of patient and family-centered, efficient care. Whether it’s patient-centered ‘medical homes,’ in which we’ll manage a substantial amount of population risk — or bundled payments, in which there will be episode payments where we can share the risk with specialists…The more flexibility we have in the way we’re paid, the more we’ll be able to achieve these goals.
So, I asked, would it be correct to say that as you looked at how to contain costs, you came to the inescapable conclusion that the modes of payment had to change in order to cut costs? Continue reading