NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


December 22, 2004

Pay-for-performance programs, bonus plans that reward primary-care doctors for following "best practices" in medical care, are expanding their reach to some high-volume specialists, including gastroenterologists, orthopedic surgeons, gynecologists and cardiologists, says Laura Landro of the Wall Street Journal.

The programs rate physicians on how well they follow proven measures of care for common conditions and can award them bonuses equal to as much as 20 percent of their annual salaries. The purpose is to provide consumers with better information when choosing a doctor.

These scorecards, created by health plans, are expanding to include 12 high-volume specialists, including gastroenterologists, orthopedic surgeons, gynecologists, and cardiologists:

  • According to consulting firm Med-Vantage, the number of pay-for-performance programs likely will double over the next two years.
  • About 42 percent of pay-for-performance programs are directed at specialists.
  • A Blue Cross Blue Shield Association survey found that 78 percent of the public would value information about how well physicians apply best practice guidelines.

For example, Priority Health of Michigan helps patients select a primary-care physician using an online scorecard that rates doctors by one to four red "apples" depending on how well they rate on basic measures of care.

Next year they are expanding its pay-for-performance program to about 1,800 specialists and will offer some additional data to help consumers choose specialists, such as orthopedic surgeons based on how much they charge.

Source: Laura Landro, "Performance Pay Expands To Medical Specialists," Wall Street Journal, December 15, 2004.


Browse more articles on Health Issues