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Maryland’s Statewide Value-Based Payment Models Benefit both Healthcare Providers and Patients

By shifting away from fee-for-service, the state encouraged collaboration between hospitals and physicians to improve care and lower costs

Maryland “leads the way” in value-based payment reform, according to a series of articles published in Health Affairs. “The evidence is clear,” the article declares, “Maryland’s application of uniform prices within global budgets lowers total care costs, reduces unnecessary utilization, and incentivizes proactive preventive and chronic disease management care. Can other states implement Maryland-like payment models and achieve similar financial success?” It’s a fair question.

It is widely-known that clinical laboratory testing is integral to early and accurate diagnosis, and, under Maryland’s current reimbursement model, hospital/health system C-suite administrators have recognized that a robust clinical laboratory service is invaluable to showing progress toward cost containment and patient outcomes goals. But how did that come about? And what can other states learn from Maryland’s success?

Focusing on Better Patient Outcomes at Reduced Costs

Maryland’s current value-based payment arrangement set its first roots back in 2014. That is the year when the state of Maryland and the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a “new initiative to modernize Maryland’s unique all-payer rate-setting system for hospital services aimed at improving patient health and reducing costs,” declared a press release at that time.

Dubbed Maryland’s “All-Payer Model,” the press release went on to say, “This initiative will replace Maryland’s 36-year-old Medicare waiver to allow the state to adopt new policies that reduce per capita hospital expenditures and improve health outcomes as encouraged by the Affordable Care Act. Under this model, Medicare is estimated to save at least $330 million over the next five years.” Did that happen? Apparently so.

The state designed its “All-Payer Model” hospital payment system to render reimbursements based on populations served and the quality of care provided. The program focused on better patient outcomes and higher quality care at a reduced cost, instead of concentrating on the volume of care. The system incentivized hospitals to prevent readmissions, infections, and other potentially avoidable events. 

“By shifting away from traditional fee-for-service payment, Maryland’s new model encourages collaboration between hospitals and physicians to improve patient care, promotes innovative approaches to prevention, and accelerates efforts to avoid unnecessary admissions and readmissions,” said pediatrician Joshua Sharfstein, MD, Vice Dean for Public Health Practice and Community Engagement at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in a 2014 CMS press release.

Sharfstein was the Secretary of Maryland’s Department of Health from 2011 to 2014.  

Then, in 2019, Maryland implemented the successor to the state’s “All-Payer Model” dubbed the “Total-Cost-of-Care (TCOC) Model.”

According to the CMS, whereas the All-Payer Model “established global budgets for certain Maryland hospitals to reduce Medicare hospital expenditures and improve quality of care for beneficiaries,” the TCOC “builds on the success of the Maryland All-Payer Model by creating greater incentives for healthcare providers to coordinate with each other and provide patient-centered care, and by committing the State to a sustainable growth rate in per capita total cost of care spending for Medicare beneficiaries.”

The TCOC began on January 1, 2019, and runs through December 31, 2026.

Nicole Stallings of the Maryland Hospital Association
“Our focus is really on the health of our communities,” Nicole Stallings of the Maryland Hospital Association told State of Reform. “We don’t have a public hospital system, we don’t have tiered hospitals, we don’t have hospitals that are having to close because we are able to spread cost really equitably across our system. Equity being a core pillar is something that we know is critically important to maintain. We want to see more alignment there as we now try to tackle these population health goals. But we believe there’s more collaboration happening here than anywhere else,” she added. Clinical laboratories have an important role to play in population health. (Photo copyright: Center Maryland/Vimeo.)

Results of Maryland’s All-Payer-Model Program

In general, an all-payer system allows a state to manage healthcare prices via rate setting where all healthcare payers, including the government, private insurers, and employer healthcare plans, pay similar prices for services provided at individual hospitals.

When it announced the results of the five-year All-Payer-Model program, Maryland’s Health Services Cost Review Commission—the state agency responsible for regulating cost and quality of hospital care in Maryland—declared the program’s targets had been achieved. They included:

  • 1.92% average annual growth per capita in hospital revenue (goal was to be less than or equal to 3.58%).
  • $1.4 billion cumulative Medicare savings in hospital expenditures.
  • 53% reduction in hospital-acquired conditions (goal was 30% reduction over five years).
  • Below national average for hospital readmissions of Medicare patients within five years.
  • All of Maryland’s 47 acute-care hospitals paid based on health populations served—not number of services rendered—with 98% of total hospital revenue under Global Budget Revenue (GBR) payment method.

In addition, the Maryland HSCRC report indicated that innovative care was a key tenet of the model and that hospitals benefitted from being given the ability to:

  • Invest in new healthcare programs that improve collaboration with other providers in the community.
  • Implement new clinical protocols, patient safety techniques, and follow-up procedures for high-risk patients at hospital discharge.
  • Create hubs of care to triage needs, coordinate important services, and ensure patients in need are connected to services outside the hospital.

After the success of the Maryland All-Payer Model, the state’s Total-Cost-of-Care Model program continued to focus on healthcare cost savings to Medicare. But it introduced population health improvement activities across the entire healthcare delivery system.

Future of Maryland’s Total-Cost-of-Care Model Program

Maryland’s TCOC Model program seeks more than $1 billion in Medicare savings by the end of 2023, or the fifth performance year of the program. According to the CMS Innovation Models webpage, Maryland’s TCOC Model includes the following three programs:

  • The Hospital Payment Program, where each hospital receives a population-based payment amount which covers all hospital services provided during a year.
  • The Care Redesign Program, which allows hospitals to make incentive payments to nonhospital healthcare providers who partner with hospitals to provide care.
  • The Maryland Primary Care Program, which incentivizes primary care providers to offer advanced care services to their patients.

An analysis of the first two years of the TCOC program found some significant improvements particularly in the areas of care management, access, and continuity.

In the first performance year of Maryland’s TCOC model, the state reduced spending by $365 million, relative to national trends, according to a Mathematica implementation report.

Part of the success of the model is due to its use of global, fixed budgets that are set for every hospital. Rates are established by an independent commission which prevents cost shifting and provides a more equitable system for patients where they pay the same price for the same service at all hospitals throughout the state, Mathematica noted. 

“We believe [global budgets are] a real distinguishing factor, because unlike the rest of the country, our hospitals aren’t paid more to do more,” said Nicole Stallings, told State of Reform. Stallings is Chief External Affairs Officer and Senior Vice President, Government Affairs and Policy at the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA).

Expanding Maryland’s All-Payer-Model Program to Other States

In 2016, CMS established the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI) to identify ways to improve healthcare quality and reduce overall costs in the Medicare, Medicaid, and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) programs. Maryland’s All-Payer model has produced the most savings out of any of the projects and experimental payment programs researched by CMMI. The success of Maryland’s programs prompted CMMI to look at expanding similar programs in other states.  

Reductions in hospital costs combined with improved outcomes can only benefit patients and the healthcare industry in the long run. Since clinical laboratory testing is integral to early diagnoses and treatment of diseases, under Maryland’s current reimbursement model a robust clinical laboratory service is invaluable for succeeding at cost containment and patient outcome goals.   

JP Schlingman

Related Information:

Meaningful Value-Based Payment Reform, Part 1: Maryland Leads the Way

Meaningful Value-Based Payment Reform, Part 2: Expanding The Maryland Model to Other States

The National Implications of Maryland’s All-Payer System

The Total Cost of Care Model: Uniquely Maryland, Uniquely Successful

CMS and Maryland Announce Joint Initiative to Modernize Maryland’s Health Care System to Improve Care and Lower Costs

Maryland All-Payer Model to Deliver Better Care and Lower Costs

CMS: Maryland All-Payer Model

CMS: Maryland Total-Cost-of-Care Model

Maryland’s All-Payer Model Results

Evaluation of the Maryland Total Cost of Care Model: Implementation Report

Maryland Total Cost of Care Model Reduced Spending by $365 Million in First Year

Independent Clinical Laboratories in Maryland May Need to Step-up Outreach with Hospitals as New CMS Program Launches Jan. 1

Clinical laboratory leaders will want to pay close attention to a significant development in Maryland. The state’s All-Payer Medicare program—the nation’s only all-payer hospital rate regulation system—is broadening in scope to include outpatient services starting Jan. 1. The expanded program could impact independent medical laboratories, according to the Maryland Hospital Association (MHA), which told Dark Daily that those labs may see hospitals reaching out to them.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the state of Maryland expect to save $1 billion by 2023 in expanding Maryland’s existing All-Payer Model—which focused only on inpatient services since 2014—to also include primary care physicians, skilled nursing facilities, independent clinical laboratories, and more non-hospital settings, according to a CMS statement.

Healthcare Finance notes that it represents “the first time, CMS is holding a state fully at risk for the total cost of care for Medicare beneficiaries.”

Value of Precision Medicine and Coordination of Care to Clinical Labs

“If a patient receives care at a [medical] laboratory outside of a hospital, Maryland hospitals would be looking at ways to coordinate the sharing of that freestanding laboratory information, so that the hospital can coordinate the care of that patient both within and outside the hospital setting,” Erin Cunningham, Communications Manager at MHA, told Dark Daily. Such a coordinating of efforts and sharing of clinical laboratory patient data should help promote precision medicine goals for patients engaged with physicians throughout Maryland’s healthcare networks.

The test of the new program—called the Total Cost of Care (TCOC) Model—also could be an indication that Medicare officials are intent on moving both inpatient and outpatient healthcare providers away from reimbursements based on fees-for-services.

CMS and the state of Maryland said TCOC gives diverse providers incentives to coordinate, center on patients, and save Medicare per capita costs of care each year.

“What they are really doing is tracking how effective we are at managing the quality and the costs of those particular patients that are managed by the physicians and the hospitals together,” Kevin Kelbly, VP and Chief Financial Officer at Carroll Hospital in Westminster, told the Carroll County Times. “They will have set up certain parameters. If we hit those parameters, there could be a shared savings opportunity between the hospitals and the providers,” he added. (Photo copyright: LifeBridge Health.)

The TCOC runs from 2019 through 2023, when it may be extended by officials for an additional five years.

How Does it Work?

The TCOC Model, like the earlier All-Payer Model, will limit Medicare’s costs in Maryland through a per capita, population-based payment, Healthcare Finance explained.

It includes three programs, including the:

  • Maryland Primary Care Program (MDPCP), designed to incentivize physician practices by giving additional per beneficiary, per month CMS payments, and incentives for physicians to reduce the number of patients hospitalize;
  • Care Redesign Program (CRP), which is a way for hospitals to make incentive payments to their partners in care. In essence, rewards may be given to providers that work efficiently with the hospital to improve quality of services; and,
  • Hospital Payment Program, a population-based payment model that reimburses Maryland hospitals annually for hospital services. CMS provides financial incentives to hospitals that succeed in value-based care and reducing unnecessary hospitalizations and readmissions.

CMS and Maryland officials also identified these six high-priority areas for population health improvement:

  • Substance-use disorder;
  • Diabetes;
  • Hypertension;
  • Obesity;
  • Smoking; and
  • Asthma.

“We are going to save about a billion dollars over the next five years, but we are also providing better quality healthcare. So it’s going to affect real people in Maryland, and it helps us keep the whole healthcare system from collapsing, quite frankly,” Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, told the Carroll County Times.

OneCare in Vermont, Different Approach to One Payer

Maryland is not the only state to try an all-payer model. Vermont’s OneCare is a statewide accountable care organization (ACO) model involving the state’s largest payers: Medicare, Medicaid, and Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Vermont, Healthcare Dive pointed out. The program aims to increase the number of patients under risk-based contracting and, simultaneously, encourage providers to meet population health goals, a Commonwealth Fund report noted.

Both Maryland’s and Vermont’s efforts indicate that payment plans which include value-based incentives are no longer just theory. In some markets, fees-for-service payment models may be gone for good.

Clinical laboratory leaders may want to touch base with their colleagues in Maryland and Vermont to learn how labs in those states are engaging providers and performing under payment programs that, if successful, could replace existing Medicare payment models in other states.

—Donna Marie Pocius


Related Information:

Maryland’s Total Cost of Care Model

Maryland All-Payer Model Expands to Include Outpatient Services

Gov. Hogan Sees Maryland Model as Example for U.S. Healthcare

The Maryland Model

Gov. Larry Hogan, Federal Government Sign Maryland Model All-Payer Contract

CMS Expands Maryland’s All-Payer Program to Outpatient Services

Vermont’s Bold Experiment in Community Driven Healthcare Reform