everything new is old, again

That which was is that which will be, and that which was done is that which will be done, and there is nothing new under the sun.
There is a thing of which one would say, “See this, it is new.” It already has been in the eons that were before us.
                              —Qohelet 1:9-10

We’ll order now what they ordered then
‘Cause everything old is new again
                              —Peter Allen

“Branding” and “re-branding” is often presented as innovation. But as is true of scientific “revolutions”, innovation worthy of the label occurs infrequently and represents a fundament shift in thinking, practice, and institutions.

In the delivery, organization, and financing of medical care there have been only four moments of fundamental innovation since 1900. The first was the invention of “pre-payment” in the 1920’s. The second was the invention of Pre-paid Group Practice by Kaiser-Permanente in the 1940’s. The third was the adoption of “prospective payment systems” by Medicare in the 1990’s to replace systems of payment based on “reasonable costs” and “usual, customary, and reasonable” fees. The fourth was the replacement by Medicare of “prospective payment” with virtual capitation in the 2010’s.

This “fourth wave” of innovation has one fundamental idea that is more of a return to the notion of pre-paid group practice pioneered by Kaiser-Permanente and the Group Health Cooperative of Puget Sound than the invention of something new. That simple, core idea is all too easily obscured by the rococo proliferation of competing “brands” or “flavors” — the Shared Savings Program, the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model, the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization Model, and most recently the Direct Contracting Model.

Running alongside this path of fundamental innovation has been a second path of what might be called extractive or expropriative innovation. Such a label could, of course be condemned as excessively cynical. But the primary offense of the most famous of Cynics, Diogenes of Sinope, was to call things by their proper names.