ACOs steam ahead regardless of Supreme Court ruling

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Regardless of how the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on the healthcare law, accountable care organizations are moving forward in coordinating patient care, improving quality and cutting costs. With yesterday's announcement from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, 27 providers will be embarking on the Medicare Shared Savings Program, effective April 1.

The Medicare Shared Savings ACOs will follow the first 32 Pioneer ACOs, announced in December and launched Jan. 1.

"It's not changing anything for us," Atrius Health Executive Director Emily Brower, a Pioneer ACO in Massachusetts, told Kaiser Health News. "This is a model of care we've been trying to evolve into since before the Pioneer program existed."

"We'll continue making investments, and if the law is overturned, we'll be asking where the return on investment is for us, if not in shared savings," Brower continued. The return on investment "might be in patient growth because our patients become increasingly satisfied with the quality of care we provide."

Although experts predicted hospitals would be leading the charge on the new payment models, the bulk of the ACOs announced yesterday are made up of physician-led organizations, CMS Deputy Administrator Jonathan Blum told Kaiser Health News. The selected ACOs include more than 10,000 physicians, 10 hospitals and 13 smaller physician-driven organizations, according to CMS.

The move toward ACOs, by CMS' count, will serve 1.1 million Medicare beneficiaries by the total 65 ACOs and will require providers to develop new competencies. For example, providers who are used to working independently must collaborate in a team approach to care, shifting attitudes from treating the sick to keeping people healthy, John Glaser, CEO of health services at Siemens Healthcare in Malvern, Pa., said in a Hospitals & Health Networks Daily column. ACOs will focus on outcomes rather than patient volumes, targeting the sickest rather than avoiding them and being responsible for the whole community rather than only those seeking care, Glaser noted.

The 27 Medicare ACOs through the Shared Savings Program will serve an estimated 375,000 beneficiaries in 18 states.

For more information:
- read the Kaiser Health News article
- here's the H&HN Daily column

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