ACOs not as popular as government hoped

Despite health reform efforts calling for accountable care organizations, ACOs aren't growing as fast as the government had hoped, according to Sally Pipes, president and CEO of the public policy think tank Pacific Research Institute.

Out of the of the 270 ACOs the Obama administration predicted for this year, only 154 ACOs have formed, serving 2.4 million Medicare recipients, Pipes wrote in a Forbes op-ed this week.

"Hospitals and doctors are revolting because ACOs saddle them with significant financial risks and substantial new administrative burdens. Patients won't like them because they'll put government bureaucrats--not their doctors--in charge of their care," wrote Pipes, who cited possible anti-competition and price-fixing.

According to a Commonwealth Fund survey released last month, three quarters of surveyed hospitals said they are not considering ACO participation, as of September 2011; only 13 percent of hospital respondents reported participating in an ACO or planning to participate within a year. Some hospitals have been slow to embrace the payment model because of the associated financial risks.

Of the hospitals involved in ACOs, more than half (51 percent) are hospital-physician joint ventures, a fifth (20 percent) are physician led, 18 percent are governed by hospitals and 2 percent are sponsored by payers, according to the Commonwealth Fund.

However, a separate June report from intelligence business firm Leavitt Partners found ACO development across the nation grew by 38 percent in six months.

For more information:
- see the column in Forbes
- here's the Commonwealth Fund summary and report (.pdf)
- read the Leavitt Partners report

Related Articles:
ACO development grows 38% nationally
ACOs and unicorns: Lovely but elusive
Hospitals not ready for ACOs' financial risks
Providers, private payers inexperienced in ACO risk sharing
Why ACOs are still a hard sell
Med groups take 'wait-and-see' approach to ACOs
Cleveland Clinic, leading hospitals blast ACOs