Strengthening Multipayer Collaboration: Lessons from the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative

Strengthening Multipayer Collaboration: Lessons from the Comprehensive Primary Care Initiative

Published: Sep 12, 2017
Publisher: The Milbank Quarterly, vol. 95, issue 3

Grace Anglin

Laura Sessums

Erin Fries Taylor


With increasing frequency, public and private payers are joining forces to align goals and resources for primary care transformation. However, sustaining engagement and achieving coordination among payers can be challenging. The Comprehensive Primary Care (CPC) initiative is one of the largest multipayer initiatives ever tested. Drawing on the experience of the CPC initiative, this paper examines the factors that influence the effectiveness of multipayer collaboration.


This paper draws largely on semistructured interviews with CPC-participating payers and payer conveners that facilitated CPC discussions and on observation of payer meetings. We coded and analyzed these qualitative data to describe collaborative dynamics and outcomes and assess the factors influencing them.


We found that several factors appeared to increase the likelihood of successful payer collaboration: contracting with effective, neutral payer conveners; leveraging the support of payer champions, and seeking input on decisions from practice representatives. The presence of these factors helped some CPC regions overcome significant initial barriers to achieve common goals. We also found that leadership from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) was key to achieving broad payer engagement in CPC, but CMS's dual role as initiative convener and participating payer at times made collaboration challenging. CMS was able to build trust with other payers by clarifying which parts of CPC could be adapted to regional contexts, deferring to other payers for these decisions, and increasing opportunities for payers to meet with CMS representatives.


CPC demonstrates that when certain facilitating factors are present, payers can overcome competitive market dynamics and competing institutional priorities to align financial incentives, quality measurement, and data feedback to support practice transformation. Lessons from this large-scale, multipayer initiative may be helpful for other multipayer efforts getting under way.

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