White coat notes

Doctors warm to new pay models

Excerpts from the Globe’s health care blog.

Doctors in Massachusetts may be looking a bit more favorably on new payment methods created under state and federal laws, according to a survey of 1,095 practicing physicians by the Massachusetts Medical Society.

About 49 percent of respondents said they are likely to participate in a voluntary global payment system, in which doctors are paid a fixed rate to manage the care of a group of patients. That’s up from 42 percent in 2011, the first year that questions about the new payment methods were included in the annual survey. Those who worked at community health centers were most open to the idea of global payments, and self-employed physicians were least likely to participate.

Sixty percent of respondents, up from about 50 percent last year, said they are likely to participate in voluntary accountable care organizations, in which a network of providers coordinate patient care and agree to assume financial risk in insurance contracts.


Seventy-one percent of primary care doctors said they were willing to participate, compared with 61 percent of specialists.

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Doctors in a single­specialty practice were less likely to embrace ACOs than those in a multispecialty group or a teaching hospital.

The survey bodes well for health care reform, said Dr. Richard Aghababian, the society’s president.

Comprehensive plans

Health insurance plans offered in Massachusetts and analyzed by US News & World Report were found to be among the most comprehensive. The analysis included 67 plans from four Bay State insurers that are sold to individuals or families. Each earned at least four of five stars, based on scope of coverage and cost.

In other states, the portion of plans with the higher rankings ranged from 4 percent in Washington to 94 percent in New York.


The organization used federal data to rate nearly 6,000 plans sold to people without access to employer insurance or public programs, covering about 14 million people in the United States. The ratings and descriptions of the plans are available in a database.

The database does not include plans from several insurers that sell individual plans in Massachusetts, including Harvard Pilgrim Health Care and Fallon Community Health Plan.

Deputy health rankings editor Steve Sternberg said the organization worked off the federal filings and tried to fill in gaps by contacting insurers directly.

“The information is not perfect,” he said.

It’s no surprise that Sternberg and colleague Chris I. Young, in their analysis of the data, found that premiums are high in Massachusetts. By other cost measures, the state did better. The median deductible for the Massachusetts plans was about one-fifth that of plans in Minnesota. Plans in Massachusetts were broader, too, covering emergency services, maternity and newborn care, mental health, and substance abuse services.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at Follow her on
Twitter @cconaboy.