BlueCross Tests Bundling Payments to Doctors

BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee is testing a different way of paying doctors. Instead of a piecemeal series of bills following a medical procedure, BlueCross is experimenting with bundling those bills into one.

The reason you get all those separate bills is because each provider bills your insurance separately. But with bundling, the insurance company cuts a single check to cover everyone.

Supporters say bundling will reduce costs and improve care, since it forces different health providers to coordinate with one another.

BlueCross is testing out bundled payments with some orthopedic practices in Tennessee.

Medicare has a pilot program of its own, funded by the health reform law.

But in terms of reducing costs Vanderbilt health economist Larry Van Horn says bundling is just window dressing.

“For it to be successful, it has to change the process of care and also hopefully reduce the costs of care.”

Van Horn says truly cutting costs is more difficult and requires paying doctors less, and bundling doesn’t necessarily do that.

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