UnitedHealth to bundle payment for MD Anderson Cancer Care
UnitedHealth announced Monday that it will pay MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston a flat fee to provide head and neck cancer care. The new bundled payment program is part of UnitedHealth's effort to increase its value-based reimbursements, which it said has already tripled to $36 billion since 2011.
It's one of the highest-profile tests of a bundled payment program in the country, and it will be "closely watched" by other insurers looking to implement similar payment bundles, Meredith Rosenthal, a professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, told the Wall Street Journal.
Lee Newcomer, UnitedHealth's vice president for oncology services, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that "a bundled payment really enables good-quality care," adding, "More isn't always better."
UnitedHealth's pilot is unique. It's broader in scope than other bundles, as it includes a wide range of services, including physicians' work and hospital charges. Plus, it isn't limited to a particular surgical procedure or other acute episode.
"If this is successful … we want to move quickly to more common cancers like lung cancer, prostate, breast cancer, where, again, you need multiple specialties and you need people that are working together," Newcomer told the Star-Tribune. "Head and neck cancer for us is a very small budget item."
The pilot is expected to last three years and includes eight different bundled prices for the cancer care, including surgery, radiation and chemotherapy services. It likely will cover as many as 150 patients.
Although UnitedHealth didn't disclose the actual bundled payment rate, Newcomer told the Star-Tribune that the insurer "set the bundle price less than what we're paying today," adding that the price is "less than our average price in the U.S. today."
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