Coordinated Medicare Networks See Improvement, But Still Seek Help

Physician and hospital networks known as accountable care organizations are growing and generating Medicare savings, but industry says they can do better, with some help from policy makers.

These networks of doctors, hospitals, or other health-care providers are growing in number, from 480 in 2017 to 561 ACOs this year under the Medicare Shared Savings Program, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. ACOs aim to work together to provide better, more coordinated care and reduce spending in fee-for-service Medicare.

The Medicare ACOs were created under the Affordable Care Act, and are a part of that law that's been relatively noncontroversial, perhaps because the Medicare agency has made it easier for some health-care providers to participate and share savings. Also on the rise is the number of patients in the ACOs, growing from 9 million assigned beneficiaries in 2017 to 10.5 million in 2018, a 17 percent increase, according to data from the Medicare agency.

The organizations could save more money and improve patient care further if Congress and the Trump administration allow for flexibility and set better benchmarks, Allison Brennan, vice president of policy at the National Association of Accountable Care Organizations, told with me in a January video interview. Among the potential ways to help ACOs are eliminating overlap with other Medicare payment programs, and a congressional proposal with new types of bonus payments.

Allison BrennanRead my full article and video the interview here.

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