CMS: More than 120 new participants join the Medicare Shared Savings Program for 2018

The number of providers enrolled in the Medicare Shared Savings Program has grown to more than 560, including 124 new participants, according to data from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. 

CMS lists 561 participants in MSSP for 2018. Sixty-five providers renewed their agreements for this year, and 372 are continuing in the program but were not up for renewal. 

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The number of MSSP participants is just under 570, the number enrolled in all of Medicare's accountable care organization programs in 2017. There were 480 participants in the MSSP program in 2017, including 99 providers who enrolled for the first time. 

Data on participation in other Medicare ACOs is expected shortly, according to an announcement from the National Association of ACOs. 

"ACOs play a critical role in transforming our nation's healthcare system through value-based care," said Clif Gaus, CEO of the association. "The growth of ACOs in 2018 shows the continued commitment from the administration to increase value in the Medicare program through ACOs." 

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Fifty-five participants have enrolled in CMS' Track 1+ Model, which is new for 2018 and offers lower risk to encourage smaller or rural providers to participate in accountable care. There is also growth in the number of participants in MSSP's two-track option, with 101 participants signed on for 2018. 

Gaus said that growth is an "encouraging sign" that providers are willing to take on more risk, though ACO programs can continue to improve so that they feel more comfortable enter more risk-based models. 

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Despite questions about the future of the Medicare ACOs, data released by CMS in October indicates that MSSP has reduced direct Medicare spending. Participants in the program saved Medicare $652 million in 2016. 

CMS paid out more in shared savings than it earned in return, but 56% of 2016 MSSP participants cut costs, with 31% reducing spending enough to earn shared savings.

Recent research suggests that these spending reductions may not be solely credited to interventions for high-risk patients.