Value-based Arrangements

New Organization Will Focus on Medical Benefit Drugs

A group of Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated companies recently unveiled a new medication contracting organization focused on medical benefit drugs. The new company, known as Synergie Medication Collective, will be successful in improving the affordability of these treatments and patients’ access to them, an industry expert says, but it also will need to show that patients are seeing those savings.

Unveiled Jan. 5, the company says it “is focused on improving affordability and access to costly medical benefit drugs — ones that are injected or infused by a health care professional in a clinical setting — for nearly 100 million Americans.” It will focus not only on infusible treatments for conditions such as cancer but also on multimillion dollar gene therapies. The company says its goal is to “significantly reduce medical benefit drug costs by establishing a more efficient contracting model based upon its collective reach and engagement with pharmaceutical manufacturers and other industry stakeholders.” It plans to “bring to market several new product offerings” this year, among them “transformative value-based models.”

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New Organization Will Focus on Medical Benefit Drugs

A group of Blue Cross and Blue Shield-affiliated companies recently unveiled a new medication contracting organization focused on medical benefit drugs. The new company, known as Synergie Medication Collective, will be successful in improving the affordability of these treatments and patients’ access to them, an industry expert says, but it also will need to show that patients are seeing those savings.

Unveiled Jan. 5, the company says it “is focused on improving affordability and access to costly medical benefit drugs — ones that are injected or infused by a health care professional in a clinical setting — for nearly 100 million Americans.” It will focus not only on infusible treatments for conditions such as cancer but also on multimillion dollar gene therapies. The company says its goal is to “significantly reduce medical benefit drug costs by establishing a more efficient contracting model based upon its collective reach and engagement with pharmaceutical manufacturers and other industry stakeholders.” It plans to “bring to market several new product offerings” this year, among them “transformative value-based models.”

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New Blues-Owned Drug Contracting Org Wants to Work With, Not Against Providers, CEO Says

A new venture founded by Blue Cross and Blue Shield affiliates, called the Synergie Medication Collective, aims to improve affordability and access to drugs covered under the medical benefit — a category that includes cancer medications and cell/gene therapies. Synergie’s chief executive says the goal isn’t to disrupt the current distribution system for clinically administered drugs, but rather to leverage the Blues’ size and bargaining power to scale up innovations like outcomes-based contracting for some of the country’s priciest drugs.

“We’re basically a medical contracting organization,” Synergie CEO Jerrod Henshaw tells AIS Health, a division of MMIT. “And by that, I mean we’re not going to be buying and billing like a Vizient or a HealthTrust and displacing any of that. We’re not going to be in the distribution channel.”

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Cigna-Walgreens Joint Venture Means New Risk-Based Contracting Test

Cigna Corp. on Nov. 7 took a $2.5 billion position in VillageMD, a primary care provider owned by Walgreens Boots Alliance, Inc., contributing to VillageMD’s move to acquire a fellow provider. The Cigna investment is just the latest of a flurry of cash-funded insurer deals involving providers, tech startups and brick-and-mortar retail firms. Health care insiders say the spending spree is far from over, and that the deal is a chance for Cigna’s Evernorth division to field-test its value-based contracting services at its largest scale yet.

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Payers Could Help Keep Threatened Rural Hospitals Afloat

More than 30% of rural hospitals nationwide could close soon, according to a new report from the Center for Healthcare Quality & Payment Reform (CHQPR). Health care experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that closures could have dire effects on rural communities, but health insurers may be able to spearhead changes in care delivery and payment models to help keep rural health care viable.

According to the CHQPR report, 631 rural hospitals are at risk of closure in the “near future,” with over 200 of those at “immediate risk” of closing. In “almost half” of states, 25% of rural hospitals are at risk of closure, and in 10 states, 40% or more are at risk. Hawaii (75%), Connecticut (67%) and Alabama (60%) have the highest proportion of hospitals at risk of closure. Texas (50%) is the most populous state to have at least half of its rural hospitals at risk. This precarious state of affairs follows 112 rural hospital closures between 2010 and July 2019, per HHS. Rural obstetric care is in particularly poor shape. Researchers from the University of Minnesota found that 165 rural obstetric units closed between 2004 and 2014, “leaving over half of rural counties without obstetric services,” as HHS put it.

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Humana Will Buy One Primary Care Group — and Could Snap Up Another

Humana Inc. will spend between $450 million and $550 million in debt and cash to gain full control of a group of primary care clinics that it launched with private equity firm Welsh, Carson, Anderson and Stowe (WCAS), and company executives said during the firm’s recent investor day that Humana plans to double down on its existing primary care M&A strategy. Health care finance experts tell AIS Health, a division of MMIT, that insurers’ spending spree on providers is only likely to accelerate, but that Humana is in pole position to benefit from deep investments in Medicare Advantage-focused primary care.

Health insurers have spent billions to acquire outpatient providers since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finance experts tell AIS Health that the spending spree has two sources of capital. Carriers are spending huge cash reserves taken in during the deepest parts of the pandemic, which saw utilization plummet as premium revenues increased. In addition, Wall Street is bullish on managed care: Lenders are lining up to offer generous terms to acquisition-hungry insurers, which have enjoyed strong stock performance since the start of the pandemic era.

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Private Plans in Michigan Stall Under CPC+ Model

A primary care reform model in Michigan failed to deliver intended cost savings and quality improvements among two private payers, casting doubt on whether current value-based model designs in the primary care space have the muscle to exert real benefits.

A study published in the September issue of Health Affairs analyzed the spending and quality results of two large insurers in Michigan that offered a payment reform model designed after the federal Comprehensive Primary Care Plus (CPC+) program. The results were muted: Among the private payers involved, the CPC+ model failed to reduce total spending; the results indicate that, when accounting for care management fees, spending actually rose under the CPC+ program. On the quality side, performance remained unchanged between CPC+ and non-CPC+ participants.

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Health Systems May See More Savings With Medicare Advantage vs. Medicare ACOs

A new study published in JAMA Network Open raises questions about whether health systems can actually achieve significant savings through the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), or if Medicare Advantage could be a better bet. To identify spending patterns in MA and MSSP’s Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs), researchers studied the characteristics and claims data of about 16,000 Medicare patients at Ochsner Health System (OHS), a large, academic system in Louisiana, from 2014 to 2018. Ochsner joined MSSP in 2013, and its ACO hosts more than 2,200 providers. It also offers MA plans via a partnership with Humana Inc.

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APG’s Susan Dentzer Discusses Value-Based Care Goals, Challenges Across Medicare

CMS’s Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation last year declared a goal of having all traditional Medicare enrollees in an accountable care arrangement by 2030. America’s Physician Groups (APG), which represents more than 300 physician groups that accept various degrees of risk with all payer types, including Medicare Advantage plans, wants CMS to apply that same goal to MA. In a recent comment letter on CMS’s request for information on the MA program, APG President and CEO Susan Dentzer urged the administration to incentivize the delegation of full risk to providers in MA.

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Six Major California Payers Agree to Join Value-Based Primary Care Initiative

Six payers have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to become the first members of the California Advanced Primary Care Initiative, a new program intended to expand the use of value-based primary care in the state.

The initiative is in its early stages, and plenty of work needs to be done to finalize the plans, according to participants in the program who spoke with AIS Health, a division of MMIT. But the agreement calls for the companies to work together to increase their investment in primary care, contract with providers in value-based arrangements, adopt measures that will be publicly released, and hold practices accountable for meeting benchmarks and reward them for strong performance.

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