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United bundles oncology payments

NEWS IN BRIEF — Posted Nov. 8, 2010

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UnitedHealthcare is conducting a pilot program in five locations to bundle payment for cancer treatment. United will pay oncologists at five test sites a single fee for an entire course of treatment for breast, colon and lung cancers.

According to the company's announcement, the intention is to separate the oncologists' pay from the type or volume of chemotherapy drugs used. Oncology offices in Georgia, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas have signed on to the program.

Bundling oncology payments has been happening for years and is gaining traction, said Pamela Germain, vice president for managed care and outreach for Roswell Park Cancer Institute, based in Buffalo, N.Y. The group is not part of the pilot but contracts with United on a per-episode basis for some treatments, she said.

She negotiates with payers what they will pay the institute for care, and she said she's working with the area's three large insurers on developing a way for them to pay Roswell Park on a bundled, or per-episode, basis.

However, Germain said she was doubtful that the profits to be had from administering chemotherapy drugs are driving their use.

Note: This item originally appeared at http://www.ama-assn.org/amednews/2010/11/08/bibf1108.htm.

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