Given an Orwellian title, Direct Contracting, launched by Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (CMMI), was anything but direct. “Indirect Contracting” would have been a far more accurate name, since the cornerstone of the program was CMS’s opening the door to non-provider-controlled “Direct Contracting Entities (DCEs)” to become the fiscal intermediaries between patients and providers.
Originally CMS proposed three Direct Contracting Models: Professional, Global, and Geographic (GEO). The GEO Direct Contracting model was the most extreme, proposing to auto-assign every fee-for-service (FFS) beneficiary in a number of large geographic regions into a fully capitated MA-like “Geo DCE.” Beneficiaries were not given the right to opt out. GEO DCEs were expected to assume total responsibility for all FFS beneficiaries in their region. This responsibility included beneficiaries in any accountable care organizations (ACOs) or other Alternative Payment Models (APMs), except those assigned to other types of DCEs. With full capitation, as with MA, GEO DCEs would be responsible for most claims payments as well as medical management. This was, therefore, straightforward privatization of traditional Medicare, differing from MA only in that GEO Direct Contracting beneficiaries retained the right to see any Medicare provider under standard Medicare coverage.