Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ACO Update

Accountable Care Organizations are the heart-and-soul of Obamacare quality and cost control initiatives. All is not healthy.

Ready – Fire – Aim

When the Center for Medicare and Medicare Innovation (CMMI) released the draft regulations for Medicare ACOs on March 31, 2011 the reaction was brutal. CMMI was publicly beaten like a rented mule, even by enthusiastic supporters of the ACO concept.

Criticisms included: 1) the rules are too complex 2) start-up costs will be much higher than CMMI estimates 3) the probably of achieving savings to share is small and 4) the time lines are too short.

The Empire Strikes Back

In May CMMI burst forth with two new models in an attempt to quiet critics (unlikely) and to improve participation.

Advanced Payment ACO

AP-ACOs are designed to share ACO shavings before the savings are created, in effect, an advance for start-up capital. No one has told us yet what happens if the AP-ACO never generates any savings.

Pioneer Model ACOs

CMMI is hoping large physician groups already involved in the Medicare physician group practice demonstration program will start ACOs before the 1/1/2012 start-up date.

CMMI jeopardizes this initiative out of the gate by setting a ridiculous deadline. The deadline has now been extended a slightly less ridiculous deadline of August 19th.

The Pioneer Model is more flexible than the original Medicare SSP-ACO model, and has rules for both regular and “rural” ACOs, but is practically restricted to existing integrated delivery systems capable of moving very, very quickly.

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