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It Depends on the Outcome: Payments for Providers – Benefits for Consumers

By Clive Riddle, May 10, 2013

Two separate studies released this week took the pulse of the outcomes-based financial landscape in healthcare at different ends of the spectrum: Availity released a sixteen-page white paper: Health Plan Readiness to Operationalize New Payment Models for providers, while the Midwest Business Group on Health released a twenty-page report: Employer Survey on Incentives, Disincentives & Outcomes-Based Incentives for employees.

The Availity study was conducted by Porter Research in the fourth quarter of 2012, involving interviews of 39 health plans. 82% of the plans consider payment reform a ‘major priority. 90% expect value-based payment models to impact their top three business objectives ( 46% expect a ‘major’ impact, while 44% anticipate ‘some’ impact.)

That doesn’t mean value based payments are mainstream today.  Just 20% say value-based models

support more than half of their businesses today.  But 40% predict that in three years, value-based models will support more than half of their businesses; and nearly 60% forecast that more than half of their business will be supported by value-based payment models in the next five years. And, of those, 60% are at least mid-way through implementation.

While the ACA uses Medicare as a primary tool to promote provider payment reform, the marketplace seems to be focusing health plans even more on the commercial side. More than 75% say they are focusing value-based payment efforts on their Employer Group plans, compared to 54%  for Medicare plans  and 46% and 44% citing Medicaid plans and Individual plans..

Availity noted that “transitioning to payment models that base compensation on outcomes requires physicians and health plans to exchange new kinds of information – different than what is required under today’s predominant fee-for-service arrangements. 90% of health plans agree that automating the exchange of ‘new’ information required under value-based payments is critical to success, with 85% saying the highest value will come from real-time exchange, though less than half have real-time capabilities.”

Meanwhile, the Midwest Business Group on Health employee incentive study was conducted during April 2013, with responses from 94 self-funded employers that represented multiple industries and locations around the US.  They found that “80% of responding employers are utilizing some form of incentives, with 41% using or planning to use outcomes-based incentives to increase engagement and participation as well as motivate healthy behaviors in employer-sponsored programs.”

Here MBGH findings from the study regarding outcomes-based Incentives:

  • Employers responded that 13% are already offering outcomes-based incentives and 28% are planning to launch programs over the next one to two years, while 40% indicated interest, but need more information.
  • Of those currently offering outcomes-based programs, 54% tie incentives to both outcomes-based measures (i.e. meeting specific targets such as BMI of 25) and improvements in outcomes (i.e. percentage decrease in BMI), versus one or the other.
  • Onsite clinical screening programs are used by 94% of employers as the way to capture biometrics with the top measurements being: 86% blood pressure, 81% BMI, 73% cholesterol, 68% glucose, and A1c and waist circumference tied at 59% each.
  • Employers said that 18% are experiencing participation levels of over 90% for outcomes-based programs; while the majority (60%) is experiencing participating levels of 40 to 80 percent.
  • Employers indicate that 98% of employee feedback is “somewhat positive” to “very positive.”
  • Degree of difficulty is notable with 95% of employers finding some level of difficulty in implementing an outcomes-based program.

Also, MBGH shared this data regarding the overall offering of incentives/disincentives:

  • Of the 18% of employers who reported not offering incentives or disincentives, 53% indicated the reason was that it was not part of their corporate culture and 47% are not sure it works.
  • For those employers offering incentives, 62% reduce premiums, 38% use gift cards and 35% offer merchandise.
  • Of those employers that use disincentives, 43% increase employee share of premiums for non-compliance and 14% have higher plan deductibles or out of pocket fees.
  • Activities that most employers’ incented included biometric screenings (70%) and health risk assessments (78%), with the greatest disincentive (78%) being used for tobacco use.
  • The monetary value of incentives programs varies widely, with $250-500 for 27% of those offering programs, $100-250 for 22% of employers and $500-1,000 for another 22% of companies.
  • Employers indicated that 71% found their incentive strategy was “very successful” or “successful” and 45% viewed their disincentive strategy as “very successful” or “successful.”
  • With the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in 2014 allowing employers to increase their incentives from 20 to 30 percent of total coverage, almost 67% said they are “very likely” or “likely” to do so and almost 36% are “not very likely” or “not likely.” For tobacco users, the ACA allows employers to increase the value from 20 to 50 percent, with employers indicating 48% “very likely” to “likely” and 52% “not very likely” to “likely.”

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