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A Brief History of Accountable Care Organizations

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ACOs to the Rescue – Not!

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By Dr. David E. Marcinko MBA CMP®

http://www.CertifiedMedicalPlanner.org

According to the Health Dictionary Series of administrative terms; valuation expert and colleague Robert James Cimasi MHA, ASA, AVA CMP of www.HealthCapital.com; an ACO is a healthcare organization in which a set of providers, usually large physician groups and hospitals, are held accountable for the cost and quality of care delivered to a specific local population. ACOs aim to affect provider’s patient expenditures and outcomes by integrating clinical and administrative departments to coordinate care and share financial risk [personal communication]

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Enter the PP-ACA

Since their four-page introduction in the PP-ACA of 2010, ACOs have been implemented in both the Federal and commercial healthcare markets, with 32 Pioneer ACOs selected (on December 19, 2011), 116 Federal applications accepted (on April 10, 2012 and July 9, 2012), and at least 160 or more Commercial ACOs in existence today.

Federal Contracts

More recently, Donna Marbury writing in Medical Economics, revealed that Federal ACO contracts are established between an ACO and CMS, and are regulated under the CMS Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) Final Rule, published November 2, 2011.  ACOs participating in the MSSP are accountable for the health outcomes, represented by 33 quality metrics, and Medicare beneficiary expenditures of a prospectively assigned population of Medicare beneficiaries. If a Federal ACO achieves Medicare beneficiary expenditures below a CMS established benchmark (and meets quality targets), they are eligible to receive a portion of the achieved Medicare beneficiary expenditure savings, in the form of a shared savings payment.

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Commercial Contracts

Commercial ACO contracts are not limited by any specific legislation, only by the contract between the ACO and a commercial payer. In addition to shared savings models which may not be in effect for another 3-5 years, Commercial ACOs may incentivize lower costs and improved patient outcomes through reimbursement models that share risk between the payer and the providers, i.e., pay for performance compensation arrangements and/or partial to full capitation.

Although commercial ACOs experience a greater degree of flexibility in their structure and reimbursement, the principals for success for both Federal ACOs and Commercial ACOs are similar. And, nearly any healthcare enterprise can integrate and become an ACO, larger enterprises, may be best suited for ACO status.

Medicare Contracts

Assessment

Larger organizations are more able to accommodate the significant capital requirements of ACO development, implementation, and operation (e.g., healthcare information technology), and sustain the sufficient number of beneficiaries to have a significant impact on quality and cost metrics.

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