ACO precursor improves cost, care

A federal government-run predecessor to the accountable care organization (ACO) significantly saved money and improved care, suggesting that reform law-inspired ACOs could achieve similar success.

The Physician Group Practice Demonstration, which was one of the first pay-for-performance pilot programs run by Medicare, helped participating doctors save an average of $114 each year per patient and about $532 per dual eligible patient, according to a study published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services launched the coordinated care program in 2005, collaborating with 10 medical practices, 5,000 physicians and 220,000 Medicare patients. CMS provided bonus payments when the providers met certain spending and quality benchmarks, Kaiser Health News reported.

Given the similarities between the CMS pilot and ACOs, most notably the emphasis on coordinating care and offering rewards for providing high-quality services, it stands to reason that ACOs "have at least the potential to slow spending growth, particularly for costly patients," the researchers wrote, according to MedPage Today.

What's more, the study shows that ACOs could be particularly beneficial among high-needs patients like dual-eligibles. "High-need populations could benefit the most from improved care coordination and chronic disease management," said Carrie Colla, the study's lead author.

To learn more:
- read the JAMA study abstract
- see the Kaiser Health News article
- check out the MedPage Today article

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