ACO timetable

Berwick outlines rough timeline for ACO initiatives

CMS Administrator Donald Berwick this week offered a forecast for when regulations for the Pioneer ACO and the shared savings programs would be released, CQ HealthBeat reports.

In March, CMS 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 in May unveiled a new model that will allow up to 30 organizations to apply for "Pioneer ACO" status and become ACOs late this year.

During Monday's conference sponsored by America's Health Insurance Plans, Berwick said he expects the Pioneer program to launch by the end of the year, noting that a "healthy number" of organizations already have applied for Pioneer status. However, CQ HealthBeat notes that the end-of-the-year deadline represents a delay in the program, since it originally was set to launch in the fall.

Meanwhile, Berwick said the final ACO regulations would be out "soon," and the contracting program would launch in January 2012. However, some analysts predict that the first contract will not be signed until March 2012. The agency has reviewed about 1,200 comments for the draft rule and is taking into account some of the criticism from hospitals, physicians, and industry groups, Berwick said (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 9/12 [subscription required]).

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