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ACO Payers 2014
Le Tour de Risk

author - Mark Allphin
Mark Allphin
October 28, 2014 | Read Time: 2  minutes

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Providers are moving steadily down the path of value-based care, but they vary in their readiness to take on more risk. Fortunately, commercial payers offer a range of “rides” that fit providers’ different needs, from comfortable transitions to trail-breaking endeavors. Based on conversations with 23 providers about 43 risk sharing agreements, this study examines the roles that five top national payers are playing in helping providers progress in the new world of accountability.

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As providers and payers reinvent their relationships, a legacy of distrust means slow progress. When providers rated their payers in five areas on a scale of 1.0 to 9.0, no one area received an average score above 6.6—the equivalent of a C- grade.


Providers new to accountable care gave Cigna and WellPoint the highest rating for collaboration, a reflection of the payers’ low-risk, low-cost programs that guide providers step by step without requiring large technology investments or major organizational changes.


Providers described Aetna as an innovative partner. Many of these providers already have population health experience and tool sets and are in a process of reinvention, often creating their own co-branded products for local employers. They rated their Aetna relationships highest for flexibility and profitability.


While payers like Aetna, Humana, and UnitedHealthcare have made large investments in technology firms, only a handful of providers have adopted their tools. Providers most value payer services. Cigna,UnitedHealthcare, and WellPoint providers rely heavily on risk stratification and care-gap reporting. Aetna and Humana customers prefer access to raw claims data so they can use their own tools.


Most providers receive per-member per-month assistance to hire care-coordination staff, but those funds are generally insufficient. Considering their out-of-pocket costs, providers rated the affordability of their relationships between 5.2 and 6.3 out of 9.0. Humana rated lowest, as some of their providers use Humana as a hired plan administrator rather than a partner.


Many providers declined to rate the financial returns of their at-risk contract, saying it is too early to tell. Aetna, Cigna, and UnitedHealthcare providers had enough experience to give an early rating, but they see profitability very differently. Aetna providers, who had the most at risk, rated profitability highest, at a 6.8. Cigna and UnitedHealthcare providers, with more restrictive and prescriptive programs, gave ratings of 5.4 and 4.9, respectively.

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This material is copyrighted. Any organization gaining unauthorized access to this report will be liable to compensate KLAS for the full retail price. Please see the KLAS DATA USE POLICY for information regarding use of this report. © 2021 KLAS Research, LLC. All Rights Reserved. NOTE: Performance scores may change significantly when including newly interviewed provider organizations, especially when added to a smaller sample size like in emerging markets with a small number of live clients. The findings presented are not meant to be conclusive data for an entire client base.