On-ramp to the fast track?

CMS seeks 30 hospitals to be ACO Pioneers

CMS on Tuesday announced three new initiatives to encourage providers to participate in accountable care organizations (ACOs), including a "Pioneer ACO Model" that could reward early adopters.

CMS in March released its proposed Medicare shared savings rule, which would govern ACOs as called for by the federal health reform law. The program is intended to encourage networks of providers to collaborate on care for Medicare beneficiaries, with the aim of improving outcomes and reducing costs.

The agency on Tuesday unveiled a new model that will allow up to 30 organizations to apply for "pioneer ACO" status and become ACOs this fall. The agency expects the program—which will be implemented by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation—to save Medicare up to $430 million in its first three years, Modern Healthcare reports.

According to CMS Administrator Donald Berwick, the Pioneer Program is "consistent with, but separate from" ACO regulations released earlier this year. Although Berwick says the Pioneer Program is not a response to complaints over the new rules, he acknowledges that it "is responsive to some concerns to get started faster."

CMS on Tuesday also announced that it was seeking comment on an "Advance Payment ACO Model," which would allow certain organizations participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program to access their savings up front. The early payment would help providers create necessary ACO infrastructure and make staff investments that could help coordinate care.

In addition, the agency announced that the Innovation Center will launch complimentary "accelerated development learning sessions" to teach organizations how to improve care delivery and coordinate care (Zigmond, Modern Healthcare, 5/17 [subscription required]; Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 5/17 [subscription required]; McCarthy, National Journal, 5/17 [subscription required]; CMS release, 5/17).

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