GOP senators say ACO rule is 'unworkable,' should be withdrawn

Seven influential Republican senators are demanding the Department of Health and Human Services withdraws its proposed rule on accountable care organizations because it is "unworkable" and "misses the target."

"We conclude that the proposed ACO regulation will fail to accomplish its purpose," the senators said in a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius. The letter was signed by Tom Coburn of Oklahoma, Jon Kyl of Arizona, Mike Crapo of Idaho, Mike Enzi of Wyoming, John Cornyn of Texas, Pat Roberts of Kansas and Richard Burr of North Carolina.

The senators believe ACOs show promise, but they think the model is doomed to fail under the existing proposed regulations because there's no alignment between incentives and accountability, the requirements are too complex, and the return on investment is uncertain, Government Health IT reports.

They also cited large start-up costs to form an ACO, which according to the American Hospital Association, could reach up to $26 million in the first year alone. The proposed ACO regulations from HHS estimated that number to be closer to $1.8 million, according to The Hill’s Healthwatch.

Additionally, Enzi said HHS hasn't ensured that ACOs will "actually help provide better care and lower costs and not drive up prices by reducing competition among providers." Coburn believes that if HHS withdraws the regulation, it will find "strong bipartisan support" among lawmakers and stakeholders to craft a proposal encouraging broad participation in achieving lower costs and better care, notes PBS Newshour.

Regulators say the proposed regulation is open for public comment and can be tweaked accordingly, Healthwatch reports.

To learn more:
- read the Senators' letter
- see the PBS Newshour story
- check out the Government Health IT article
- read The Hill’s Healthwatch piece