Medicare ACO quality, savings improve in second year

Medicare's Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) improved in both quality and savings in their second year, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

Medicare ACOs improved substantially in nearly every quality and patient experience measure, according to CMS. Moreover, ACOs in the Pioneer model and the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) saved a total of almost $400 million.

According to CMS:

  • Eleven Pioneer ACOs earned shared savings.

  • The average quality scores for Pioneer ACOs in the second year was 85.2 percent, a 19 percent increase from the 2012 average of 71.8 percent.

  • Fifty-three MSSP ACOs kept spending nearly $700 million below targets.

  • MSSP ACOs improved on all but three of 33 quality measures, including screening for tobacco use and cessation, high blood pressure screening and patient ratings of clinician communication.

Of the Pioneer ACO savings, Banner Health Network's topped $15 million and made up 16 percent of the total, according to a Banner announcement.

"Supporting beneficiaries when they were most at risk and in need of medical advocacy--after a new diagnosis, following hospital discharge or as a result of multiple emergency department visits, for example--has also been an important strategy in this program," said Banner CEO Chuck Lehn.

Sixty-four ACOs in all--about a quarter--saved Medicare enough to earn bonuses, which totaled $445 million, according to CMS. "The Shared Savings Program continues to receive strong interest from applicants seeking to join the program starting in 2015," CMS' fact sheet states. "New participants will likely be announced in the end of 2014."

This is the second consecutive year of promising news for Medicare ACOs. In January, CMS announced preliminary data showing Pioneer and MSSP ACOs saved nearly $400 million in 2012, with first-year expenditures lower than projected for 54 of the 114 ACOs that began that year, FierceHealthcare reported.

To learn more:
- read the CMS fact sheet
- here's the Banner announcement