The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced that as of July 1, 89 new accountable care organizations (ACOs) began serving people with Medicare, bringing the total number of organizations participating in Medicare shared savings initiatives to 154. More than 2.4 million beneficiaries are receiving care from providers participating in Medicare shared savings initiatives.
ACOs are organizations formed by groups of physicians and other healthcare providers that have agreed to work together to coordinate care for Medicare beneficiaries. Participation in an ACO is voluntary for providers. According to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), ACOs will operate in a wide range of areas of the country and almost half are physician-driven organizations serving fewer than 10,000 beneficiaries, demonstrating that smaller organizations are interested in operating as ACOs. ACO models for coordinating care and improving quality vary in response to the needs of the beneficiaries in the areas they are serving. The Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and other initiatives related to ACOs could result in federal savings up to $940 million over four years.
To ensure that savings are achieved through improving care coordination and providing care that is appropriate, safe, and timely, an ACO must meet quality standards. For 2012, CMS has established 33 quality measures relating to care coordination and patient safety, appropriate use of preventive health services, improved care for at-risk populations, and patient and caregiver experience of care.
New ACO applications will be accepted annually. The application period for organizations that wish to participate in the MSSP beginning in January 2013 is from August 1 through September 6, 2012.
For more information, including application requirements, visit the CMS website.