Kaiser CEO: ACOs will coordinate care despite few takers

Even though trends point to greater accountability and care coordination, there will be likely few participants in accountable care organizations (ACOs), according to Kaiser Permanente CEO and Chairman George Halvorson in a Kaiser Health News article.

"[T]he version of ACOs that was written into the law for Medicare is complex and the law wasn't as well drafted as it could have been. (The main ACO program) is probably going to have very few people signing up and is going to be almost a non-starter," Halvorson said. "But Medicare is creating some pilot programs with ACOs, and I think there are going to be a few dozen of these that are going to figure out ways of dealing with the patient population more directly."

Currently, an estimated 60 to 80 healthcare organizations use private accountable care models, according to Elliott Fisher, director of Dartmouth's Center for Health Policy Research. By next year, that number will rise to 100 ACOs.

Healthcare executives are split on the matter, but providers increasingly support ACOs for the touted cost savings attached to the programs.

Halvorson continued, "I think that the very best way to save money in health care is to make care more accountable and effective and to focus on the right level of care. We at KP have cut the number of broken bones in our seniors by about 40 percent by delivering team care to them and identifying all the seniors at high risk and making sure they get the right prescriptions, the right follow-up, and the right coaching. And we save hundreds of millions of dollars a year by not having those bones break."

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