Scott Regenbogen

Dr. Regenbogen is the MVC Co-Director

Over the last 10-plus years, the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan (BCBSM) Value Partnerships have grown to include, among other programs, 17 Collaborative Quality Initiatives (CQI). The clinical focus of the CQIs ranges from cardiology to spine surgery to radiation and many others. This “Michigan Model” of collaboration, pay-for-participation, and statewide, population-based quality improvement has yielded wide-ranging improvements, as reported several years ago.

Still, the regional collaboratives model has not spread widely beyond Michigan. Last month, at the inaugural summit of the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Quality Improvement, discussion focused on the challenges of securing financial support for regional collaboratives. Several other states—including Tennessee, South Carolina, Illinois, and Pennsylvania—have multi-hospital improvement initiatives around surgical care, but on a smaller scale than in Michigan. Like Michigan’s, all of these CQIs are supported by a regional Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer. In a commentary in this week’s JAMA Surgery, the leaders of the Michigan Surgical Quality Collaborative argue that an all-payer strategy, including investment from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is needed in order to replicate the Michigan approach to care improvement.

To date, BCBSM has been the sole third-party funding source for the CQIs. Yet, the efforts of each collaborative have been payer-naïve—the benefits accrue to all patients regardless of their insurance coverage. In the Michigan Value Collaborative, we analyze payment data for individuals insured by both BSBSM and Medicare, and will soon expand to include Medicaid beneficiaries as well. And even in states like Michigan, where BCBSM handles quite a large portion of the commercial insurance market, CMS still remains the truly dominant payer, once we consider Medicare and Medicaid in all of their various forms.

This week’s JAMA Surgery Viewpoint considers how CMS could partner with private payers in support of regional collaboratives. Such a partnership could allow Michigan to become a model for the rest of the country. Under the new requirements for MACRA, physicians may satisfy reporting requirements through Qualified Clinical Data Registries. But what if active participation in a proactive CQI became a central part of all medical care in this country, and was supported by CMS? If this degree of dissemination could be achieved, CMS could catalyze innovative care delivery improvement on a far greater scale.