Monday, October 24, 2011

Accountable Care Organizations - Second Attempt

Accountable care organizations (ACOs) are the keystone of PPACA (Obamacare) as far as restraining costs and improving quality.

Early this year there was great excitement about ACOs in the provider community, but the publication of the (first phase) Medicare ACO rules threw cold water on the concept.

The rules were at best complicated and convoluted and providers ran for the hills. The administration tried calming the fleeing providers with fast track and modified programs, without much success.

On October 20th the Obama administration published revised Medicare ACO rules. The "simplified" rules run 696 pages! Most of us are still reading and analyzing, but the response seems to be less one of fear and more one of disinterest - but time will tell.

The administration finally got smarter and announced modifications to antitrust policy so Obama's DOJ would not be wrecking the work of Obama's DHHS.

Bad news though, employers and insurers see the possibility of intense ACO activity as anti-competitive.

This is a mess.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

IOM Recommendations

The Institute of Medicine (IOM) an influential organization long known for criticizing health care providers and advocating reform, has issued process recommendations for deciding the "essentials" of health insurance plans. An essentials list is required by DHHS by 2014 for all health plans available on the state health exchanges. The essentials should balance quality of care with projected premium costs.

PPACA does specify ten (10) broad areas of coverage, but not a specific plan menu.

The IOM study was a disappointment to some because it did not specify benefits, as this would have been a good discussion starter and would have given DHHS some political cover. The IOM focused on an approach to making the decision, and it is to start with costs and then work into benefits.

IOM also suggested an annual review of the programs beginning in 2016, and some waiver flexibility for states to customize plans.

Not exciting, but very very important.