New Commission Chaired by Bill Frist and Former Robert Wood Johnson Foundation President to Assess how Physicians are Paid

A new independent commission, chaired by Steve Schroeder, MD, former president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, will assess how physicians are paid and how pay incentives are linked to patient care. The 12-member National Commission on Physician Payment Reform will issue recommendations on how to reform the physician payment system in an effort to restrain health care costs while at the same time optimizing outcomes for patients.

How physicians are paid is a major driver of health care costs, along with other factors such as the number of patients accessing services, increased treatment for chronic conditions, the continued reliance on high technology interventions and a system that continues to reward payment for procedures rendered and tests ordered instead of quality of overall patient care. Physician payment issues and health care costs are at the forefront of discussion in health policy circles, in the halls of hospitals and at home around the dinner table. Congress continues to grapple with adjusting the sustainable growth rate (SGR) that determines physician Medicare payment rate cuts, uncertainty continues to surround implementation of the Affordable Care Act, and physicians and policy-makers alike agree the continued increases in cost to provide health care services cannot continue.

The commission will assess potential impacts of proposed healthcare payment models such as accountable care organizations, patient-centered medical homes and value-based purchasing. The commission will also likely consider incentives and safeguards surrounding physician payment, as well as assess forms of physician payment that maximize good clinical outcomes. It will meet over the course of one year, producing an analysis and full recommendations in a report in early 2013.

The Society of General Internal Medicine (SGIM) launched the commission, which will include former U.S. Senate Majority Leader Senator Frist, a noted physician, as Honorary Chair. It is funded in part by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the California Healthcare Foundation, and the Sergei Zlinkoff Fund for Medical Education and Research.