Bonuses for doctors are positive step for ACA

There's plenty of wailing about how tightly the Affordable Care Act has squeezed everyone along the health care value chain, from insurers, to providers, to patients. So count us among those pleased with last week's news that Horizon Blue Cross Blue Shield of New Jersey paid out $3 million in bonuses to a group of 51 medical practices in the Garden State.

A major problem with conventional, pre-Obamacare medicine was a system that rewarded practitioners each time they performed a service, rather than focusing on the overall well-being of the patient. Under the ACA, patient health is the priority, and doctors and insurers work together to determine quality care strategies — and price those plans out. The result is more predictable claims for insurance companies and, hopefully, an improvement in patient health.

Horizon’s payout last week is proof that we’re starting to take baby steps in the right direction. Providers who got payouts were successful in their efforts to keep patients healthy without unnecessary tests and hospitalizations. And a look at the numbers is encouraging: Drops in hospital readmissions for patients receiving knee and hip replacements and a fall in the number of pregnant women receiving unnecessary caesarean sections represent real cost savings in a system that remains plagued by inefficiencies, even if they are well-intended ones.

It’s not just insurers who are making the adjustments, or the doctors working with them to create a more efficient model for health care delivery. We’ve seen a top-to-bottom overhaul of the hospital landscape, in New Jersey and beyond, as large systems acquire smaller hospitals in order to insulate themselves against the loss of Medicare funding that is helping to pay for Obamacare. The survivors of this radically reshaped industry are stronger and more able to ride out the ebbs and flows of doing business in a challenging and changing environment. That’s equally true of the doctors and insurers willing to agree to reasonable rates and effective courses of treatment in order to maximize value without compromising patient health and safety.

Obamacare is not without its faults, to be sure, but it’s a positive step in a necessary reform of the health care delivery system. We’re excited to see that it’s been effective enough to start showing these kinds of promising returns for Horizon and for doctors, and we look forward to seeing more successes in the near term.

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