Doctors and health care providers have formed 106 new Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in Medicare, ensuring as many as four million Medicare beneficiaries now have access to high-quality, coordinated care across the United States, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced.
Doctors and health care providers can establish ACOs in order to work together to provide higher-quality care to their patients. They were created under President Obama's healthcare law with the goal of improving quality and lowering costs. Since passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 250 ACOs have been established. Beneficiaries using ACOs always have the freedom to choose doctors inside or outside of the ACO. ACOs share with Medicare any savings generated from lowering the growth in health care costs, while meeting standards for quality of care.
“Accountable Care Organizations save money for Medicare and deliver higher-quality care to people with Medicare,” Sebelius said in a statement. “Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more doctors and hospitals are working together to give people with Medicare the high-quality care they expect and deserve.”
ACOs must meet quality standards to ensure that savings are achieved through improving care coordination and providing care that is appropriate, safe, and timely. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has established 33 quality measures on care coordination and patient safety, appropriate use of preventive health services, improved care for at-risk populations, and patient and caregiver experience of care. Federal savings from this initiative could be up to $940 million over four years.
The new ACOs include a diverse cross-section of physician practices across the country. Roughly half of all ACOs are physician-led organizations that serve fewer than 10,000 beneficiaries. Approximately 20 percent of ACOs include community health centers, rural health centers and critical access hospitals that serve low-income and rural communities, according to HHS.