ACO Participation Numbers Worth Watching As CMS Changes Take Root

In mid-July, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released the latest number of accountable care organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. This was the first opportunity for ACOs to apply to participate in CMS’s largest value-based payment program since the agency redesigned the program last year. Changes CMS calls “Pathways to Success” took effect on July 1. 

In a Health Affairs blog post, CMS administrator Seema Verma wrote more ACOs “are taking on real accountability” for Medicare patients. Many ACOs opted to stick with the Shared Savings Program after years of investing in care coordinators, information technology, and changing the culture of their respective health systems to care more about disease prevention and cost reduction. There is also a growing knowledge base that ACOs can turn to for successful practices. A recent Health and Human Services Inspector General report outlined several strategies high-performing ACOs used to lower spending by an average of $673 per patient. All efforts to improve our delivery system and change incentives in health payments are not only appreciated, but sorely needed. 

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