Should the insurer or the provider be in charge of integrating health care?

Mayo rebuffs Iowa Medicaid managed-care contracts

By Tony Leys
The Des Moines Register, March 24, 2016

Iowans with Medicaid health coverage will not be able to routinely use the Mayo Clinic after the state shifts the $4 billion program to private management next week.

The three managed-care companies that will run Iowa’s Medicaid program told legislators this week they’ve been unable to negotiate contracts with Mayo’s famed hospital system, which is just across the border in Rochester, Minn.

Cheryl Harding, Amerihealth’s top executive in Iowa, told legislators that her managed-care firm has signed contracts with three Mayo-affiliated primary care clinics in Iowa, but not with Mayo’s main medical center in Rochester. The other managed-care companies, UnitedHealth and Amerigroup, also said they have not obtained such contracts.

For the time being, they said, Mayo has agreed to consider single-case contracts for Iowa Medicaid recipients needing specific care that can’t be provided elsewhere.



By Don McCanne, M.D.

There are so many issues here, but it really boils down to one, which we’ll get to in a moment.

One of primary the goals of health care reform is to provide integrated health care services. The participants in an ideal health care delivery system work together as a team to ensure that the patient receives the right care, at the right time, at the right place. The care pyramid is built on a solid primary care infrastructure that serves, not as a gatekeeper, but as a facilitator.

Examples range from structurally integrated systems such as Kaiser Permanente, to loosely integrated services provided by the various health care resources in a community - hospitals, outpatient centers, community health centers, and independent primary care and specialty practices. In today’s message, Mayo Clinic represents an integrated system with its mothership in Rochester and its affiliated primary care clinics serving patients in its neighboring state of Iowa.

Thus Mayo provides integrated services that would be paid for by private insurers or employer-sponsored plans, either through fee-for-service or capitated payment schedules. Low income patients would be covered by Iowa’s Medicaid program.

But wait a minute. The insurers now profess to provide higher quality and lower costs through their own integrated managed care services. Iowa is following the lead of other states and turning its Medicaid program over to private Medicaid managed care companies. Although they avow quality, early experience with other state Medicaid managed care programs indicate that it is all about saving money, as quality and access deteriorate.

So what is happening to Iowa’s Medicaid patients who are currently obtaining their care from Mayo? It seems that Mayo is no longer in charge of integrating the health care of these patients; the private insurers are instead. For most of the patients, that means they lose access to their current care. One of the insurers will still allow patients to use the Mayo affiliated primary care clinics but not the Mayo mothership in Rochester, except by special arrangement on an individual basis. Instead of integrated care, these managed care companies are providing disintegrated care (double entendre intended).

The obvious conclusion is that integration of health care services should be a function of the health care delivery system based on patient service and not a function of an intermediary payer based on business goals.

A publicly administered and financed single payer monopsony would be designed to incentivize appropriate integration of our health care delivery system so that we really could have a higher quality health care system that brings greater value to all of us.