Robert J.Master MD has devoted his career to re-imagining care for America’s most socially and medically vulnerable populations, with a vision that includes fundamental values changes, alternative financing approaches, and empowered primary care teams. For nearly four decades, this vision has been pursued not only as a practicing physician but through leadership positions in government, academia and as a nonprofit healthcare entrepreneur.
Dr Master, cofounded Commonwealth Care Alliance (CCA) in 2003. Until 2016, he was its President and CEO, the latest and most scaled expression of his vision for health care transformation. Prior to CCA, Dr Master founded Community Medical Alliance, which was the first prepaid care system for Medicaid beneficiaries with advanced HIV disease and serious physical disabilities.
In the 1980’s, Dr. Master was the first practicing physician to direct the Massachusetts Medicaid Program under Governor Dukakis. It was in this role, while confronting the cost and care problems of frail elders and individuals with disabilities, that he developed an understanding of the finance and policy changes that were necessary to enable care system transformation. The most important of these was the development of a global payment risk adjustment system that could reasonably approximate medical care costs.
After leaving Medicaid, Dr. Master became the chair of the Health Service Department at the Boston University School of Public Health, where he assembled a team to create the nation’s first workable diagnostic risk adjustment payment system for Medicaid beneficiaries with complex needs. This applied research proved to be foundational to promoting clinically-based accountable care systems.
Of all his roles, Dr. Master is most fulfilled when he is providing direct care to underserved populations. From his earliest experience in 1974 as the first physician at the Uphams Corner Health Center in Dorchester, Massachusetts to his present work as a hospitalist on the CCA service at Boston Medical Center, he has continued to practice medicine. In 2009, Dr. Master was recognized by the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA) with a National Health Quality Award for his leadership in improving the quality of care for vulnerable populations, a recognition that he attributes first and foremost to lifelong learning from his patients, his late wife, Dr Marie Feltin, advocates and his many colleagues who have shared this journey with him.