HHS Confirms Launch of New Mandatory Bundled Payment Models

In remarks to the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative, HHS Secretary Alex Azar confirmed that new mandatory bundled payment models are coming. During his tenure as Secretary of HHS, Azar has consistently signaled that new, required episode-based payment models are coming, and elaborated on those plans in yesterday’s remarks, saying, “We need results, American patients need change, and when we need mandatory models to deliver it, mandatory models are going to see a comeback.”

During his speech, Azar doubled-down on his previous statements that mandatory bundled payment models are necessary in order to test efficacy and spur reform, and pointed to savings demonstrated in several common inpatient episodes included in the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement (BPCI) model. He also noted that HHS intends to revisit some of the bundles which were previously scaled back, including episodic cardiac models, as well as introduce new models. Azar went on to specifically mention that HHS is exploring “new and improved episode-based models” for radiation oncology.

Azar reiterated that HHS intends to focus on paying for outcomes, rather than processes, saying “We don’t want to be overly prescriptive about how doctors deliver value. We are going to tell you the what that we want—better outcomes at a lower cost—but we’re not going to be overly specific about the how.”

The final portion of Azar’s remarks was dedicated to the idea of further empowering patients and their primary care providers to improve the health of populations through prevention, saying:

“I want you all to imagine a system where patients are in the driver’s seat, able to shop among providers who are empowered as navigators of patient decisions rather than paperwork; where payments reward outcomes, not box-checking; and where diseases are effectively prevented or cured long before they cause unnecessary suffering and cost.”

Read Azar’s full remarks from his speech to the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative Conference here.