MANAGED CARE December 2006. ©MediMedia USA
Medicare officials plan to launch a pay-for-performance demonstration project next year for solo and small physician practices. The initiative will be a pay-for-reporting program in its first year in order to provide baseline information on the approximately 800 participating practices in Arkansas, California, Massachusetts, and Utah, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. After that, practices will be able to earn yearly incentives of up to $50,000, with a $10,000 maximum per physician.... Meanwhile, Mark McClellan says that higher-income Medicare beneficiaries should pay higher premiums to ensure the program's financial viability. McClellan, former CMS administrator, notes that beginning next year, beneficiaries with annual incomes of $80,000 will be required to pay a surcharge for the first time. That will affect 4 percent of beneficiaries, or 1.8 million individuals, and McClellan thinks that is a good first step. Policymakers should increase the surcharges even more, he says.... This one sneaked up on everybody, apparently. A quarter of Fortune 1000 companies are expected to have on-site clinics by the end of 2007, says Watson Wyatt Worldwide. About 15 percent have them now. "The trend has caught on so quickly that there is little comparative data: Watson Wyatt didn't even ask the question until this year," reports the Washington Post. Those that have the clinics are raving. Employees are more likely to seek preventive care when the doctor is just down the hall. The clinics also cut down on work time lost when employees go to a doctor outside the building.... The world's largest retailer will put consumer-directed health care to the test in the big way come Jan. 1, 2007. Wal-Mart Stores is set to offer new employees high-deductible plans as a "massive test" that it hopes will result in lower costs by "making individuals responsible for spending decisions," reports the Wall Street Journal. New employees will be able to enroll in a health plan with an $11 monthly premium and a $1,000 deductible, or a plan with a $17 monthly premium and a $3,000 deductible. Wal-Mart expects to contribute as much as $2,400 to the HSAs annually, says the Journal.