ACO approval deadline approaching faster than you might think

In my last post on Hospital Impact, I discussed events that are taking place now to change the way care is delivered to U.S. citizens with pre-existing conditions and to retirees who are not yet eligible for Medicare. I would be remiss not to mention another development on the horizon that is affecting hospitals and physicians: Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs).

ACOs provide care for a defined patient population and are accountable for quality and cost associated with the care they provide. Because the providers assume varying degrees of financial risk, they can receive higher bonuses for achieving quality and spending goals.

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act Section 3022 requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS)--Kathleen Sebelius--to establish a Shared Savings Program by January 1, 2012, in which authorized providers contract with the Secretary to manage and coordinate care for Medicare beneficiaries for three years. Acceptable providers include group practices, networks of practices, hospital-physician partnerships and other groups that the Secretary deems appropriate.

ACOs must...