Some state workers to see new option for health-care coverage

An approach to health care that supporters tout as better quality for a lower price will be offered to some Washington state employees beginning next year.

The Washington state Health Care Authority, the agency that manages benefits for public workers through the Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB), has signed deals with the UW Medicine Accountable Care Network and the Puget Sound High Value Network to provide coverage to PEBB members.

The arrangements are similar to an accountable care organization or ACO — a strategy for delivering health care that has taken off under the Affordable Care Act and is growing nationwide. In Washington, there are already ACOs and ACO-like options for residents. including Medicare participants and Boeing workers.

The goal of an ACO is to control medical and insurance costs by setting spending targets. But to make sure patients also receive good care, doctors and other providers must meet health and satisfaction goals as well. If clinics and hospitals hit their targets, they reap financial rewards. If they don’t, they can be on the hook for the extra costs or penalties.

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