QUESTION: I heard that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”) recently announced a new payment model, referred to as the “Community Health Access and Rural Transformation (“CHART”) Model.” Can you provide a brief overview of this? Is participation mandatory or voluntary?
ANSWER: CHART is a voluntary payment model intended to improve health care quality in participating rural communities. Participating rural communities have the option to choose between one of two different “tracks.” The first is labeled the Community Transformation Track, which builds upon certain lessons learned from the Maryland Total Cost of Care Model and the Pennsylvania Rural Health Model. To participate, communities must identify a Lead Organization (such as a local public health department or health system). In exchange for spearheading efforts to implement health care redesign in the targeted community, the Lead Organization is eligible to receive up to $5 million in funding. This track is scheduled to begin in July of 2021.
The second is the ACO Transformation Track. This enables rural accountable care organizations (“ACOs”) to receive advance shared savings payments. CMS hopes that these advance payments will encourage rural ACOs to advance more quickly into models that involve downside risk (i.e., two-sided risk models). This track is scheduled to begin in January of 2022.
It is important to keep in mind that the CMS Innovation Center is designed to test and experiment with various payment and service delivery models, which means that its initiatives often involve significant risk and uncertainty. CHART is no different. Although the agency hopes that this will result in improved health care quality at reduced cost, there are key obstacles that the agency (and the participants) will need to overcome. For example, what sorts of entities are well-qualified to serve as a community’s Lead Organization (responsible for developing a strategy to redesign the community’s health care delivery system)? How effective will the participants be in redesigning their health care delivery systems while simultaneously juggling the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic? Assuming that rural ACOs do choose to accept downside risk, how resilient will they be if obstacles or mistakes cause them to fall short of their goals?
If participants are able to navigate through and ultimately overcome these obstacles, it will be a promising sign for the future of large-scale efforts to promote value-based payment systems nationwide.