Seven states join Medicaid ACO project

The accountable care organization (ACO) targeting the Medicaid population is picking up steam. Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas and Vermont on Thursday announced their participation in a Medicaid ACO collaborative that spans the seven states.
With support from The Commonwealth Fund and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation, the 14-month collaboration called "Advancing Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations: A Learning Collaborative," specifically targets low-income populations to improve care and cut costs, the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), a nonprofit health policy center, announced.

"We have been intrigued about the potential for safety-net ACOs to increase care coordination and curb spending for some of the nation's highest-risk, highest-cost patients," CHCS President Stephen Somers said in a statement. "The participating states deserve to be recognized for pioneering new care delivery models in their communities to propel this emerging field."

The goal is for the "safety-net ACO," as CHCS calls it, is to shift accountability from health plans to the practice level, offering providers financial incentives.

However, because of this target population, skeptics worry that Medicaid ACOs could be risky testing ground. Although there are already more than 100 ACOs that serve Medicare populations, the Medicaid population is notably sicker, poorer and requires more resources.

Nevertheless, "ACOs have great potential to improve care for vulnerable populations at the ground level and link payment with care improvements," according to Pamela Riley, senior program officer at The Commonwealth Fund.

For more information:
- read the CHCS statement
- check out CHCS project website

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