KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Pioneer ACO Results Include Improved Quality, Lowered Medicare Costs

Even with these marks, nine of the health systems -- nearly a third of those participating in the program -- have decided to leave after the first year. 

Politico: Obamacare Pilot Project Lowered Medicare Costs
An ambitious program under the health law to change how care is paid for lost nearly a third of its participants after the first year, but not before all were able to boost the quality of care provided to patients in an experiment that some experts say holds promise to bring down health care costs in the long run (Norman, 7/17).

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: 9 Pioneer ACOs Jump Ship After First Year
Nearly a third of the health systems chosen for the ambitious Pioneer accountable care organization program with Medicare are leaving after the first year of the three-year program. The goal of accountable care is for hospitals and doctors to save money while lowering costs (Gold, 7/16.

Bloomberg: Hospitals Withdraw From Key Obamacare Cost Savings Plan
Nine of 32 hospitals and health systems dropped out of a U.S. pilot program created through the Affordable Care Act to reduce medical costs by moving away from a traditional fee-for-services model, the government said. The costs of caring for those enrolled in the "Pioneer" program increased 0.3 percent in 2012, less than half the rate of other beneficiaries in Medicare, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said today in a statement (Adams, 7/16).

CQ HealthBeat: Pioneer ACO First-Year Results Include Savings and Losses
The first-year report card for the Medicare Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations shows that more plans saved money than lost, but also that some providers have decided to either exit the program or take a step back and move to the less risky traditional shared savings model. The Pioneer ACO model was designed for more-advanced, higher-performing organizations (Bunis, 7/16).

Medpage Today: Top ACOs Get Good Marks, CMS Reports
Costs for the 32 pioneers grew by only 0.3 percent in 2012, while costs for similar Medicare patients who were not in ACOs grew by 0.8 percent last year, CMS said. But only 18 of the 32 pioneer ACOs lowered costs for Medicare patients they treated in 2012. That includes the 13 pioneer plans that were able to share savings with Medicare, plus an additional five ACOs which also lowered costs, but not enough to be able to share in the Medicare savings (Pittman, 7/16).

Modern Healthcare: Why One Medicare Pioneer ACO Failed To Save Money
Atrius Health, an alliance of an eastern Massachusetts hospital and several physician practices in the region, is one of nearly two dozen accountable care organizations that agreed to stick with Medicare's test of the promising but unproven model. Atrius is also one of two organizations to see a financial loss during the experiment's first year, according to preliminary results (Evans, 7/16).

Minneapolis Star Tribune: Lower Costs Elude Hospitals
Hitting the bull’s-eye on a "triple aim" of improvements under the federal health law promises to be a major challenge for the nation’s hospitals. Initial results from a federal pilot program released Tuesday showed that hospitals excelled at improving the quality of medical care and in getting high marks from patients. But a majority struggled with the third goal -- lowering the cost of care (Crosby and Spencer, 7/16).

Detroit Free Press: U-M System Pulls Out of ACO Health Care Program
Patient health may have improved within the nation's 32 Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) programs, but the results were mixed after the first full year, the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) said Tuesday. And one of the three Pioneer ACOs in Michigan -- the University of Michigan Health System -- is withdrawing from the program designed to test a tenet of federal health care reform: that coordinated care keeps chronic conditions under control and drives down costly trips to the hospital (Erb, 7/16).

The Denver Post: Denver Physician Group Drops Out Of Medicare Cost-Cutting Program
A Denver physician group hailed as one of the "pioneers" in a U.S. effort to cut Medicare costs is backing away from the program, after spending more and saving less than expected in the effort. Physician Health Partners, one of 32 health systems named by federal officials in 2012 to share in savings from caring for 25,000 Medicare patients, said it was switching to a less-risky program (Booth, 7/16).

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