What to know about the latest ACOs

CMS names 27 new participants in Shared Savings Program

Dan Diamond, Managing Editor

CMS on Tuesday named the 27 health organizations that will become accountable care organizations under the federal health reform law's Medicare Shared Savings Program.

The new ACOs include more than 10,000 physicians, 10 hospitals and 13 smaller, physician-led organizations, which will serve about 375,000 Medicare beneficiaries in 18 states. Five organizations also will participate in CMS's Advance Payment Model. 

The uncertainty around the Affordable Care Act's future hasn't dimmed interest in the ACO program, which is "off to a very phenomenal start," according to CMS Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum. "We are on track to fundamentally transform the [Medicare] fee-for-service program," he added in a conference call.

CMS also is reviewing an additional 150 applications from organizatons seeking to enter its Shared Shavings Program in July, "suggesting that the [program] is moving full-speed ahead," Kaiser Health News reports.

The announcement comes after CMS in January launched the "Pioneer" Accountable Care Organization program that created 32 new ACOs, and the Physician Group Practice Transition Demonstration, which created six new ACOs. According to CMS, more than 1.1 million Medicare beneficiaries are now participating in shared-savings initiatives (Gold/Torres, Kaiser Health News, 4/10; Daly, Modern Healthcare, 4/10 ).

  • Learn more at the Health Care Advisory Board's national meeting, Beyond the ACO. Due to popular demand, a makeup session has been added for May 15.

Key takeaways: Broader interest, but ACOs face learning curve 
According to Chas Roades, the Advisory Board's chief research officer, as ACOs launch and "people actually start to deliver care in a different way, it’s [going to be] messy and complicated. There will be successes and failures, and it may go slower than policy-makers would like."

Roades suggested that CMS help the initial cohort of ACOs share their data and best practices with one another. "It’s a slow ramp but everyone will be watching very closely to see how these early ACOs succeed," Roades said.

Rob Lazerow , Director of the Advisory Board's Medicare Payment Innovation Project, notes that only two of the new ACOs opted for the higher-risk, higher-reward Track 2 program, which comes with downside risk. "Even if organizations are willing to be first in line for the Shared Savings Program, they are carefully staging their overall level of risk in the program," Lazerow added.

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