123 ACOs join MSSP model

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced 123 affordable care organizations have joined the Medicare Shared Savings Program for a three-year term that began Jan. 1.

These new partnerships of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers--the largest in the program's history--brings the total of MSSP ACOs to 360. The new ACOs will offer access to high-quality, coordinated care to an additional 1.5 million Medicare beneficiaries, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the announcement.

The new ACOs include a diverse cross-section of healthcare providers across the country, including those who provide care in underserved areas. More than half are physician-led organizations that serve fewer than 10,000 beneficiaries. Approximately 1 in 5 include community health centers, rural health clinics and critical access hospitals that serve low-income and rural communities.

The MSSP program, which is designed to reduce the growth rate of Medicare spending, allows ACOs to share with Medicare any savings they generate from lowering the growth of healthcare costs when they meet high-quality care standards. CMS evaluates ACOs using 33 quality measures on patient and caregiver experience of care, care coordination, patient safety, appropriate use of preventive health services and improved care for at-risk populations.

The announcement comes on the heels of an earlier CMS request for feedback on its ACO initiatives. The agency wants input on the second round of applications for the current Pioneer ACO model and new ACO models that encourage greater care integration and financial accountability. Responses to the Pioneer RFI are due by March 1.

Although nine hospitals dropped out of the experimental Pioneer program this summer, seven of the original Pioneer ACOs reportedly applied to the alternative MSSP model. Two of those former Pioneer ACOs--Denver-based Physician Health Partners and Austin, Texas-based Seton Health Alliance--are among those on the list of new MSSP ACOs.

Applications for the next cohort of MSSP ACOs that begin in January 2015 are due in summer 2014.

To learn more:
- read the CMS announcement
- see the list of 123 MSSP ACOs
- here's the Pioneer RFI (.pdf) and form