BCBS leans into site-neutral payments

The Blue Cross Blue Shield Association released a policy statement backing site-neutral payments as a key focus for saving billions of dollars in the next decade.

"Rising costs for consumers are a significant consequence of the rising price of healthcare delivery. As hospitals continue to acquire physician practices, the result is often using reimbursement to maximize revenue and drive higher prices," according to a BCBSA press release.

The report notes a 12 percent increase in physician practices owned by hospitals, health systems, private equity and other corporate firms over the last two years. When hospitals acquire physician practices, charges jump on average about 14 percent, according to the report. ASCs are also typically reimbursed at a lower rate than hospital outpatient departments for the same services.

BCBSA asked lawmakers to expand Medicare site-neutral payment efforts to lower the rates for hospital-owned practices. The payer also asked the Federal Trade Commission to keep a close eye on physician practice acquisitions and block potentially anticompetitive mergers or transactions.

BCBSA's plan supports "reasonable" reimbursement by site of care and halting anti-competitive behavior. The policy also recommends speeding genetic and biosimilar alternatives to market for more access to low-cost prescription drugs and transitioning from fee-for-service to value-based care models.

The payer estimates its recommendations would save $767 billion in the next decade, including $337 billion in federal savings.

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