Health policy Q&A: Oncology Care Model


The Oncology Care Model is a value-based payment approach aimed at encouraging coordinated cancer care through targeted bonus payments to practices. The payment experiment was launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in 2016 and now includes 175 practices and 10 payers. It is set to end in 2021. As agency officials consider whether to continue the program, Stephen S. Grubbs, MD, vice president for clinical affairs at the American Society of Clinical Oncology, weighs in on the model’s track record and its future.

Paper money spread out. utah778/Thinkstock

Question: How would you rate the Oncology Care Model in helping to drive practice transformation?

Dr. Grubbs: Participants in the Oncology Care Model (OCM) have demonstrated improved care coordination, psychosocial support, use of risk assessment tools, and other strategies to lower costs and adverse events. Over the past 2 years, ASCO has accepted numerous posters, articles, and abstracts from OCM participants on their outstanding work to advance cancer care delivery.

Question: Should the model be extended beyond 2021?

Dr. Grubbs: Changes to the model are necessary prior to a significant extension or expansion. Some have suggested that CMS extend OCM for an additional year with current participants. This would give CMS time to consider input from all stakeholders on its eventual replacement.

Question: What additional resources or payments do oncology practices need to be more successful in meeting the goals of the Oncology Care Model?

Dr. Grubbs: OCM has shown that by providing oncologists with payment for care management – OCM participants receive $160 per patient, per month – the results are better care coordination and reduced hospital and emergency department visits. If CMS chooses to expand payments to all oncology providers, we could expect to see improved care for cancer patients.

Question: ASCO has advanced its own Patient-Centered Oncology Payment model. What are the main elements of this strategy and how does it differ from the Oncology Care Model?

Dr. Grubbs: The Patient-Centered Oncology Payment (PCOP) model is the result of input from a wide group of stakeholders, including providers, employers, and managed care organizations. In the coming months, ASCO will publish an updated copy of the PCOP model.

Dr. Stephen S. Grubbs of ASCO

Dr. Stephen S. Grubbs

Our review of OCM is that the included prediction model and two-sided risk options place small, rural, and certain other practices at considerable peril because of imprecise and inconsistent cost predictions. PCOP takes a different approach. Rather than requiring that practices take on actuarial risk for total cost of care, PCOP includes a three-part performance methodology. Practices are measured on adherence to clinical treatment pathways; electronically capturable quality measures; and select, targeted cost-of-care measures. Practices that perform well in PCOP’s performance methodology receive increased incentive payments to fund further advancements in care.

Question: The PCOP model includes payments to oncology practices for participation in clinical trials. How might that drive a change in behavior in a typical practice?

Dr. Grubbs: Practices that enroll patients in clinical trials have the same or greater storage and handling requirements as those treated with standard treatments, yet forgo revenue associated with the Medicare Part B average sales price methodology. PCOP ensures that such practices are not disadvantaged for supporting clinical research.

Question: Are there other areas – such as tumor biomarker tests – in which a tailored payment approach would improve the quality of care?

Dr. Grubbs: Recent studies have shown that not all patients receive the appropriate genomic profiling and other tests necessary to ensure that they benefit from personalized therapies. Clinical treatment pathways have the ability to inform and measure diagnostic completeness to improve the quality of care.

Question: What are the barriers that are keeping oncology practices from participating in alternative payment models designed to improve care?

Dr. Grubbs: Some alternative payment models, such as OCM, place a high administrative burden on their participants. Manual reporting of measures and clinical data, complicated billing requirements, and lack of support from electronic health record vendors create barriers for expanded participation. Practices are also concerned about the financial risks placed upon participants; it is impractical to expect that physicians hire actuaries in order to participate in a Medicare program.

ASCO has offered support for OCM practices through its PracticeNET benchmarking program, but we have also proposed PCOP as an appropriate alternative, applicable to practices of all types and sizes.

Dr. Grubbs joined ASCO in 2015 as the vice president of the newly launched clinical affairs department. Before joining ASCO, Dr. Grubbs worked as a community oncologist and managing partner at Medical Oncology Hematology Consultants in Newark, Del. Dr. Grubbs is a volunteer and the principal investigator of the Delaware Christiana Care National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program. Dr. Grubbs reported having no financial disclosures.

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