BCBSNC’s Conway Wants ‘Deep Partnership’ With Physicians

Dr. Conway addresses NCMS Board members and Leadership scholars at the Rizzo Center in Chapel Hill.

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina’s President and CEO, Patrick Conway, MD, made an informal presentation and answered the questions of the North Carolina Medical Society (NCMS) Board of Directors and the 2018 class of Leadership scholars over dinner on May 18.

Dr. Conway, a pediatrician and NCMS member, has been at the helm of BCBSNC for about eight months, arriving in North Carolina after serving as the most senior non-political leader at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) as Deputy Administrator for Innovation and Quality and Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation. He said he is the first physician in US history to lead a health plan the size of BCBSNC.

“We want to be a model Blue for the country,” he said, adding that it’s uncertain what exactly that would look like, but offering several areas they are working toward, including:

  • Deep partnerships with physicians and physician assistants in which everyone share accountability for quality and cost of care.
  • Integration of mental and behavioral health.
  • Reducing the administrative friction and burden on physicians and PAs through better data and analytics.

In response to a question about the recent announcement by NC Treasurer Dale Folwell directing BCBSNC to cut State Health Plan physician rates by 15 percent, Dr. Conway said he would suggest a path of provider partnership.  “We’ve got to bring the cost out of this system while improving quality.”

Dr. Conway offered that to achieve this, larger physician groups likely will be expected to assume more ‘downside’ risk in the future. He also said that BCBSNC can use benefit design and incentives to ensure patients have ‘more skin in the game.’

When asked what physicians and PAs can do to help BCBSNC succeed, Dr. Conway suggested the following:

  • Try to embrace change along with us.
  • Tell us when we’re doing something wrong.
  • Try not to be wedded to fee-for-service reimbursement models.

He concluded his remarks with: “Payers and providers should not fight. They should get along for the good of their patients.”


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  • Elaine Ellis

    Just to clarify — the 15 percent rate cut is not by BCBS per se, but through their contract with the State Health Plan. For more on NC State Treasurer Dale Folwell’s directive to BCBS to make this cut, see the Bulletin story in this issue under the headline: “Make Your Voice Heard on State Health Plan Directive” (http://www.ncmedsoc.org/make-your-voice-heard-on-state-health-plan-directive/)

  • Michael Wolff MD

    Back stabbing by a former physician. Typical double talk. Most private practices will not survive a 15% cut and will be forced to sell out to hospitals