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direct contracting

When it comes to healthcare payments, direct contracting (DC) is yet another structural payment mechanism. For medical billing services, the DC is between Medicare and healthcare providers for incentivizing quality care, which is also based on affordable economics for taxpayers and patients.

Ethos of Direct Contracting

In comparison to other value-based care models, which reimburse healthcare providers for offering specific services, the DC works with a capitated payment system. Here, providers get monthly payments, which comply with historical care costs. Such care revolves around the concepts of primary care services for patient panels, in addition to bonus payments based on the quality of care and savings realized.

Furthermore, DC incentivizes innovation inside the primary care clinical model, which line up better with the system-level and patient goals.

Goals of Direct Contracting

The primary goals of DC include the following:

  • Bringing about the transformation in risk-sharing arrangements for Medicare FFS (Fee-For-Service)
  • Empowering the beneficiaries to engage personally in their care delivery
  • Minimizing the provider burdens for meeting healthcare needs

Direct Contracting Entities (DCE)

The DCEs are liable to form relationships with two types of providers or suppliers, for instance, Participant and Preferred Providers.
Ideally, there are two major differences between these relationships. First and foremost, the beneficiaries only align with participant providers and not just any preferred providers. Second, the participant providers must enter a pre-negotiated payment arrangement with DCE. While preferred providers can sometimes elect to receive the pre-negotiated payment or not.
The DCEs must consider the above mentioned differences before deciding what type of relationship to formulate with which providers.

Risk Arrangements of DCs

DCs come with three types of risk arrangements, of which only two are available for participants today. These arrangements encourage organizations to take on more downside risks. The two risk options, global and professional, are 100% and 50% of sharing losses/savings arrangements, respectively.

Why go for a DC?

Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) considers that the DCEs controlling funds with their downstream providers shall enable them to improve care delivery and coordination effectively. It can also help better manage the health needs of their aligned beneficiary populations, resulting in better outcomes and reduced costs.
The projection of payment mechanism will be paid monthly, and that too directly to the DCE. The faith here is that DCE shall invest in technological advancements, for expanding resources for VBC (value-based care), and reimburse providers via payment arrangements.

Surprising Demand for Direct Contracting in Medical Billing

DC as a healthcare model was launched back in 2021, with a number of 53 DCEs participating. Some others who file applications have the option to defer enrollment in the program till 2022. Furthermore, CMMI is not accepting any new/additional applications for future performance years.
Many providers and other stakeholders are not happy with this announcement as they position Direct Contracting in healthcare as a promising opportunity for progressing a physician’s exposure to healthcare risk. Additionally, DC as a medium leads physicians’ independence to engage with patients in the frequencies and modalities appropriate to manage health outcomes. Furthermore, whether or not CMMI will offer future application opportunities, is yet to be seen.

Final Word – Future Projections for DC

Providers who still need to enroll in a participating DCE have some options for them to work alongside the 53 existing participants. So far, the CMMI has licensed different entities in over 39 states. All of the Direct Contracting entities employ various new strategies through which providers and their beneficiaries can benefit. The current innovations of the DC healthcare model indicate the future of value-based care in the US.

Frequently Asked Questions

DC entails a payer agreeing to send a group of providers or a provider a contract to sign and abide by. Such a contract binds both parties to an agreement that the provider/group shall offer X services for Y rates. These rates will be paid according to the fee schedule, and providers need to accept the contracted rates as total payments.
A DCE is a model framework that performs as an entity comprising a strategic group of suppliers and healthcare providers. Known as “Preferred” and “Participating” providers both of which operate under a standard legal structure.
Ideally, the HMO plans have low monthly premiums, so you can expect to pay less out of your pocket. The PPOs have high monthly premiums in exchange for flexibility of using providers both inside and outside of the network without a referral.



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