Steve Wiggins has seen a thing or two in his more than three decades as a healthcare entrepreneur. His Oxford Health Plans introduced “pods,” a precursor of the Accountable Care Organization and he led HealthMarket, an early player in the consumer directed health plan space. He’s carried the same themes into his current role as founder and Chairman of Remedy Partners, the leader in Medicare’s Bundled Payments for Care Initiative (BPCI).
As you’ll hear in this podcast, Steve’s a big believer in bundles, offering them as a proven solution for a large portion of the healthcare dollar, within almost any healthcare financing framework from traditional commercial coverage to Medicare for All.
Here’s what we discussed:
(0:18) What is a bundled payment? How does it relate to other new approaches like ACOs?
(3:05) Did bundled payments start in Medicare rather than the private sector? If so, why?
(6:52) How well has BPCI worked? What does the future look like?
(11:01) How do episodes and bundles tie in more broadly? I often hear that chronic care or end of life care are the big cost drivers, not episodic care. Can those statements be reconciled?
(15:10) How should we think about bundled payments and related topics playing into the campaign, or should we just give up on that?
(19:14) You’ve founded quite a few healthcare companies over your career. How does this Remedy compare?
(21:41) How do you expect the company to evolve in the next few years?
Big bad Partners HealthCare plans to take over Rhode Island’s number two player, Care New England. Lifespan, the market leader is trying to keep Partners out by appealing to Rhode Islanders’ resentment of out-of-state players and claiming to have the public interest at heart.
“This is not about Lifespan,” [Lifespan’s CEO Dr. Timothy] Babineau said in an interview. “This is about the future of health care in Rhode Island.”
Actually, Lifespan seems to want to go from being the big fish in a small pond to the only fish, by merging with Care New England and Brown, in a so-called “unified” health system, which is just another word for monopoly.
“Lifespan has correctly identified the threat to themselves — but the idea that that is a threat to the public interest is another matter,” said Williams, president of Health Business Group.
“It’s kind of an obvious move to attack a big company for being from out of state, and [saying] they’re going to hurt our local economy and drive up costs,” Williams said. “Really what’s happening is [Lifespan]
would like to dominate Rhode Island and not have to worry about somebody else.”
PS –It’s kind of funny that the Boston Globe itself has announced its intention to penetrate Rhode Island with more coverage of local matters. Watch out Providence Journal!
The term ‘Medicare for All’ is being bandied about as the campaign for the Democratic Presidential nomination gets underway. Declared and potential candidates are warming to the idea.
It’s easy to see why:
After years of trying to defend complex, compromised Obamacare from GOP rhetorical attacks and legislative and administrative undermining, Democrats are going with a program that is popular and well funded
Medicare especially appeals to the middle-aged and older population, who tend to vote. There’s no stigma attached to it
It could be funded and implemented as a sweeping program at the federal level, which is ideal for a Presidential candidate to talk about.
However, I’d much rather see attention turn to continued expansion of Medicaid, specifically by offering people the opportunity to “buy in” to Medicaid coverage. This has real advantages:
“It’s the prices stupid,” we have been told since 2003. Price, not utilization, is the main reason the US spends so much more than other countries. By design, Medicaid puts the squeeze on costs through lower reimbursement rates
Medicaid has provisions to squeeze drug prices, too, something Democrats and Republicans favor
Medicaid coverage is more holistic than Medicare. It includes programs to address social determinants of health, and is suitable for younger people including parents and children
Medicaid is a partnership between the states and federal government, enabling individual states to craft solutions that fit their specific populations
Several states are already looking at Medicaid expansion as a way to address their specific issues. For example, New Mexico (a purple state) is getting serious about further use of Medicaid. The state has some distinctive characteristics:
Medicaid is by far the largest player already, covering 40% of the population
The uninsurance rate remains stubbornly high at 9%
There are many undocumented and mixed status families who are shut out of the current coverage system
New Mexico is studying four approaches. (You can read the assessment here.)
Targeted Medicaid buy-in: Medicaid-style coverage to those ineligible for Medicaid, Medicare, or the Obamacare marketplace. The state would subsidize premium costs
Qualified health plan public option: A variant on the program originally proposed in Obamacare, with coverage on the marketplace in partnership with an insurer
Basic Health Program: An Obamacare option already
Medicaid buy-in for all: An off-marketplace program available to anyone except Medicare eligibles
The analysis leads me to the idea of starting with Option 1 as a trial run for Option 4. The advantage of Option 1 is that it doesn’t require federal approval, would bring uninsured people into the system who are currently discriminated against, and provide a test bed for further expansion. It would not disrupt the current market by drawing away healthy people, because it is only open to those currently outside the system.
Option 4 could come into force after the 2020 election, when the federal environment is more favorable and once New Mexico has learned from its initial experience.
Sometime down the road, an even more radical version would shift everyone into Medicaid. Private health plans would still have a role since everyone could be enrolled in Medicaid managed care. Providers and drugmakers won’t like the compressed reimbursement, but maybe it will encourage them to innovate on efficiency.
All of these proposals can be combined with value based approaches, which enable the efficient, high quality providers to succeed while containing costs and potentially boosting the patient experience and outcomes.
For now, I’d like to see the debate start up as part of the presidential race. Candidates visiting early primary and caucus states should dig in. In Iowa, for example, Medicaid for all is being discussed by local Democrats.