Close to 100 New Accountable Care Organizations join the Medicare Program

Eighty-nine new ACOs (Accountable Care Organizations) have joined Medicare’s Shared Savings Program (MSSP) starting this January. This recent collaboration comes in a bid to provide high quality care at lower costs, announced CMS. Along with the ACOs participating in the Pioneer program, the new additions bring the total number of MSSP organizations up to 424, serving more than 7.8 million Medicare beneficiaries, writes Sean Cavanaugh, Deputy Administrator and Director at the Center for Medicare.

“ACOs are one part of this Administration’s vision for improving the coordination and integration of care received by Medicare beneficiaries,” Cavanaugh says on the CMS blog.  “Since ACOs first began participating in the program in early 2012, thousands of health care providers have signed on to participate in the program, working together to provide better care to Medicare’s seniors and people with disabilities.”

“In 2014 alone, existing Shared Savings Program ACOs added almost 17,000 healthcare providers, and the 89 new ACOs will bring approximately 23,000 additional physicians and other providers into the ACO program starting January 1,” he added. “The growth of this program for providing health care has been continued and consistent since its inception, and we are encouraged by that interest.”

The announcement follows what Cavanaugh calls “promising results” for MSSP ACOs. Last year, MSSP ACOs improved on 30 of the 33 quality measures. These measures included screening for high blood pressure, patient satisfaction with clinicians’ communication and overall doctor ratings among beneficiaries.

The Shared Savings Program has proven to be extremely successful producing over $400 million in savings while improving the quality of healthcare. The savings come from the ability of ACOs to keep spending below target levels, offset by financial bonuses provided to organizations that achieve their goals.  As of November fifty-eight MSSP accountable care organizations kept costs $705 million under baseline and earned more than $315 million in incentives.

The eighty-nine new participants will be subject to a recently proposed rule that will require MSSP ACOs to better utilize health IT in their initiative to perform better on quality indicators, improve care coordination, and incorporate population health management into their workflow.

“We continue to believe that ACOs should coordinate care between all types of providers and across all services, and that the secure, electronic exchange of health information across all providers in a community is of the utmost importance for both effective care coordination activities and the success of the Shared Savings Program,” the rule said.

The organizations will be tasked to develop a plan to use health IT, including EHRs, telehealth, and health information exchange in order to achieve their goals.

“Ultimately, today’s announcement is about delivering better care, spending dollars more wisely, and having healthier people and communities,” Cavanaugh concluded. “ACOs drive progress in the way care is provided by improving the coordination and integration of health care, and improving the health of patients with a priority placed on prevention and wellness. We look forward to continuing this partnership with doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers in increasing value and care coordination across the health system.”

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