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Healthcare Business News

WellStar launches IPA, looks to expand shared savings

By Beth Kutscher
Posted: December 13, 2012 - 1:00 pm ET

WellStar Health System, Marietta, Ga., has launched an independent physician association that will allow it to partner with commercial payers on contracts that take advantage of new payment models.

The system already is participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program, and the IPA expands that shared-savings concept to commercial contracts, said Barbara Corey, WellStar's senior vice president of managed care.

Yet Corey noted that the IPA is also about redesigning healthcare delivery: "In the past, (IPAs) have strictly been contracting vehicles," she said.

Operating as a wholly owned, limited-liability corporation of WellStar, the IPA will enable physicians to share clinical information and other best practices, with the goal of ultimately lowering the cost of care.

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The WellStar Clinical Council—which also works with the Medicare accountable care organization—will design programs for the IPA. These programs will fall into three categories: traditional contracts, shared-savings programs and value-added programs, such as group purchasing opportunities.

Physicians will pay an annual membership fee, which they can choose to deduct from any future shared savings.

Similar IPAs have been formed in other parts of the country. One in Connecticut was formed last year among three physician groups. IPAs have served as vehicles for other ACOs as well; these IPA partnerships include one with Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey and another with Blue Shield of California and publicly traded Tenet Healthcare Corp.

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