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National Association of ACOs Comments on Medicare First-Year ACO Results

January 30, 2014
by Mark Hagland
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A national ACO association hails a new CMS report documenting ACO cost savings to Medicare

On the heels of a report from the Center for Medicare & Medicaid Services reporting on the cost savings being generated within the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) for accountable care organizations (ACOs), the National Association of ACOs (NAACOS) released a statement Jan. 30, saying that NAACOS "is pleased that the hard work of delivering accountable care has produced significant savings for the Medicare trust fund and Medicare patients as announced today by CMS," the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.

According to the data released by CMS, just under half (54 out of 114) of the ACOs that started program operations in 2012 already had lower expenditures than projected. Of those ACOs, 29 generated shared savings totaling more than $126 million. The ACOs also generated a total of $128 million in net savings for the Medicare Trust Funds. The Pioneer ACOs generated gross savings of $147 million in their first year, CMS reported.

"The 29 ACOs should be congratulated for their success," the statement said. "Most importantly, the Medicare beneficiary has received improved care, the taxpayer has saved money and the overall system is responding to need to improve health and reduce costs. In the aggregate, the Medicare ACO efforts are off to a good start.  Hundreds of organizations, thousands of doctors and other healthcare providers have stepped up to the challenge of doing better for the Medicare beneficiary and the taxpayer."

The NAACOS statement went on to say that the association "believes there is much room for improvement and is committed to working with CMS and the Congress to help improve the program. We are especially concerned that 25 ACOs contributed to the program savings but the government rules did not allow them to share in the savings Medicare received. Our research shows that the 114 ACOs invested over $400 million up to this point in building and operating accountable care organizations in their communities. Many will receive no return on that investment this year and will struggle to stay in the program," the statement said. It went on to urge CMS leaders to work with NAACOS to change "the way patients are attributed to the ACO and bring stability to the population the ACO is serving"; improve "the formula for setting the benchmarks and how savings are determined"; "account for the fact that in some communities the costs of care are well below the national average, and for them, it is even more difficult to achieve savings"; increase the clinical and claims data that ACOs receive to improve care; and "recognize that quality of care varies from community to community and while achieving a uniform high standard of care is the goal, in the interim, allow for regional differences and allow ACOs to receive savings if their overall quality of care is improved."


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