The National Association of Accountable Care Organizations on Thursday will launch a direct contracting taskforce to help doctors and hospitals take advantage of new government pay models.
The taskforce is primarily focusing on the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation's new direct contracting model, the successor to the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization model. NAACOS hopes that its webinars, in-person conference sessions and other resources will help more providers to take on responsibility for patients' total cost of care in exchange for financial rewards.
"Our taskforce will help drive participation and ensure direct contracting will be the next in a growing line of successful accountable care models," said Clif Gaus, NAACOS president and CEO.
NAACOS wants to help providers decide whether directing contracting is right for them and how to implement it. That includes determining if providers are ready for various levels of risk.
"Providers that are already in fee-for-service and would enter the program as standard (direct- contracting entities) have to think about how much risk they're ready to take on. And whether this (direct contracting) model, given the pros and cons, is a better fit than where they might be already," said Allison Brennan, NAACOS senior vice president of government affairs.
Advocacy will be another key focus of the direct contracting taskforce.
"One of the main goals of the direct contracting taskforce is to work collaboratively with CMMI to shape this model," Brennan said. "That's been an important aspect of innovation center models."
Providers' experiences with the ACO model can be applied to direct contracting and help improve models going forward, according to Brennan. That could include providing more predictable benchmarks or incorporating new approaches to risk adjustment, she said.
But direct contracting isn't a panacea. It's a voluntary model that targets specific types of providers, so nobody should expect it to transform the healthcare system overnight. CMMI will need to create the right balance of incentives to attract and retain providers. The agency hasn't finalized those details yet. It's part of a broader set of efforts in the private and public sectors to move the healthcare system towards value-based care.
"This program has promise, but we have to look at the broader shift to value ... it's not just one program, it's the combination," Brennan said. "I think that when we look at the aggregate of these accountable care models, that's how we are going to fundamentally change how healthcare is delivered and paid for."
Under direct contracting, a wide range of providers that deliver evaluation and management services can take on financial risk for traditional Medicare patients to earn financial rewards and operate with less federal oversight. HHS hopes that direct contracting will improve payer-provider alignment. It's part of the Trump administration's push towards value-based care, which has demonstrated limited success because most providers seem to prefer the status quo.