Cheryl Damberg is the Distinguished Chair in Health Care Payment Policy and Principal Senior Researcher at the RAND Corporation, and Professor at the Pardee RAND Graduate School.  She lectures at UCLA’s School of Public Health, the National Clinician Scholars Program at UCLA, and USC’s Sol Price School of Public Policy. Dr. Damberg has mentored numerous junior RAND researchers and UCLA faculty, and a 2016/2017 Harkness Fellow.

Dr. Damberg began her career working in government and for private employers designing and implementing policy changes, and then transitioned to conducting applied research to address real-world policy problems.  Providing decision makers with science-based information as they design or adjust policies to maximize their effectiveness is central to Dr. Damberg’s research. For example, she tested modified pay-for-performance payout designs to minimize unintended effects on providers who care for disadvantaged patient populations while retaining incentives for improvement.  Drawing on her expertise in performance measurement and pay for performance, she was twice asked to testify before Congress regarding repeal of the Sustainable Growth Rate physician payment policy and she worked closely with Congressional staff to embed pay-for-performance elements into MACRA.  As the principal investigator of a CMS-funded project, she is conducting applied analyses designed to strengthen the Medicare STAR rating program that determines Quality Bonus Payments for Medicare Advantage plans.  

Dr. Damberg’s research focuses on understanding how new payment models and increased accountability for performance are leading to the redesign of health care delivery and, in turn, improvements in the cost and quality performance of providers and health systems.  As a national leader in value-based purchasing, she has examined the effects of pay for performance and applied social risk factor adjustments to improve measure validity and thereby minimize unintended effects in reporting and incentive programs. She was a pioneer in the development of provider performance report cards and has worked to help report card sponsors apply sound methods for comparing provider performance. Dr. Damberg has worked to advance measurement of quality and value to support implementation of alternative payment models. Currently, she is the principal investigator of an AHRQ-funded Center of Excellence on Health System Performance, which is exploring the evolution of health systems and identifying attributes of high performing systems.

Dr. Damberg received the AcademyHealth 2010 Best Theme Abstract for “Assessing Unintended Consequences in Pay for Performance” and the 2008 Health Services Research John M. Eisenberg Article-of-the-Year Award for a study that demonstrated a link between receipt of better quality care and improved patient outcomes.  She is on the editorial board of Health Services Research and was co-editor of a Medical Care Research and Review special supplement on Public Reporting for Consumer. Damberg is the Co-Chair for the National Quality Forum Cost and Resource Use Standing Committee, and has served on numerous technical expert panels including the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT Advanced Health Models and Meaningful Use Workgroup and CMS’s Physician Value-based Purchasing Plan development panel.

Dr. Damberg previously was Director of Quality and Research for the Pacific Business Group on Health, where she measured and reported the quality of hospitals and medical groups, Senior Consultant to Fortune 100 firms at the MEDSTAT Group, and a fellow in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.  Dr. Damberg received her Ph.D. in public policy from the RAND Graduate School and an M.P.H. from the University of Michigan School of Public Health.