A number of pundits are citing the systemic failure of ACOs, after additional Pioneer ACOs announced withdrawal from the program – Where do you weigh in on the prognosis for Medicare and Commercial ACOs over the next several years?”
Republished courtesy of MCOL
|Mark Lutes Chair, Board of Directors, Epstein Becker & Green, P.C.||
Certainly, if we dial back the rhetoric and the expectations for immediate system -wide transformation, we can expect accountable care organizations to make a contribution to incentivizing more efficient care. Shared savings methodologies are a significant contribution to the arsenal of provider incentive systems. However, they are not magical. Like other incentive systems that have been implemented over the decades since the federal HMO Act was passed, shared savings methodologies are going to enjoy their greatest success where the participating providers have a large percentage of their professional income subject to (hopefully coordinated) value based incentives.
There is also no magic to calling a network an ACO as compared to the nomenclature of IPA, PHO, or PPO. The alchemy governmental and commercial payors seek, in contracting with any such network, is alignment around efficient quality care. The likelihood of the alignment succeeding flows in part from the adequacy and timeliness of the data available as well as from the ability to lock in and incent enrollees — each deficiencies in the current MSSP design. Also, as in any provider or other personnel incentive system, the carrot must be attainable and the “juice must be worth the squeeze.”
Therefore, as we prepare to comment on the next round of CMS’ MSSP and as we negotiate commercial shared savings arrangements, we will be well served to always move the programs in a direction in which they give participating providers the tools for success and in which they will be credible motivators. Most importantly, policy makers, carriers and self-funded employers will be most pleased with the efficacy of shared savings if they work together to align large percentages of payment streams in support of shared savings. If the shared savings tool is not applied in a context where it is worth the effort for providers to vary from the volume based mind-set, we will be asking and expecting too much of and from it.
|Henry LoubetChief Strategy Officer Keenan||
The recent withdrawal of nearly 40% of the Pioneer ACO participants is indicative of significant concern but does not represent the systemic failure of the model. While these Medicare ACO programs did not perform as well as hoped, there were many factors affecting savings and quality improvements including geography and diversity of the populations served. A recent article published by the Brookings Institute analyzes the two-year results in some depth and that many of the ACOs continuing to participate in the Pioneer ACO program are achieving notable success. In the California marketplace, Brown & Toland Physicians and Monarch HealthCare were among the better performing ACOs in the study.
ACOs continue to demonstrate great promise on the commercial side. Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of California have been leading the way in California in taking the ACO model to the next level. For more than 20 years, the delegated/capitated model of health care delivery has been in existence in California, and it is not surprising that two of the largest health plans have been behind the development of successful ACO structures. Anthem’s ACO has seen increases in HEDIS quality metrics and patient engagement. Blue Shield continues to expand the geographic reach of its ACOs, adding a number of new medical groups to the program. ACO efforts between CalPERS/Dignity, Hill Physicians and Blue Shield can also be classified as successful ACOs. In addition, the Kaiser Permanente integrated care model that ACOs emulate has been in existence here since the 1940s.
Certainly adjustments to procedures, the structure of incentives and improved alignment between the cost and quality of health care are needed to achieve the highest objectives of the Accountable Care model. These changes take time and some organizations will be able to improve their performance better than others. Far from being a systemic failure, the ACOs that have shown dedication to the model are showing that the program is having some successes and have demonstrated that improvement in financial and quality outcomes are possible within a reasonable time horizon.