KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

ACOs’ Efforts To Coordinate Patient Care Saved $380 Million

In their first results of the heralded program -- which was set up in the health law -- federal officials say about half of the accountable care organizations slowed spending but few met the requirements to qualify for bonuses.

Kaiser Health News: Capsules: ACOs Saving Some Money, But Medicare's Short On Details
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced Thursday that overall, provider groups involved in Medicare ACO programs saved a total of $380 million in the first year. Sounds like a lot of money, but CMS declined to explain which hospitals were winners and which were losers, how it compared to expectations and how much the participants invested in coordinating care. Also missing is the scale of the savings; CMS did not provide the context of total spending by the ACOs (Gold, 1/31). 

The Wall Street Journal: Coordinated Health Care Program Saves Millions
Nearly half of the 114 hospitals and doctor groups that began Accountable Care Organizations under the health law in 2012 managed to slow Medicare spending in their first year, but only 29 of them saved enough money to qualify for bonus payments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday. CMS called the results "very promising"—particularly for the first year of a program that involved significant changes in the delivery of health care. But the fact that more than half the ACOs didn't achieve savings underscores the challenges that remain in curbing health-care costs this way (Beck, 1/30).

USA Today: New Care Organizations Save $380 Million In First Year
The section of the Affordable Care Act aimed at changing the treatment of Medicare beneficiaries saved the program more than $380 million in its first year of operation, a top Medicare official said Thursday. Accountable Care Organizations were created as part of the 2010 health care law and started in a series of pilot programs around the country. Instead of paying health care providers for each service they perform, ACOs focus on keeping patients out of the hospital (Kennedy, 1/30).

Reuters: U.S. Says Results Encouraging For Healthcare Delivery Reforms
The Obama administration on Thursday reported what it called encouraging results from efforts to reduce healthcare costs and improve the quality of care for more than 5 million Medicare beneficiaries under Obamacare. As part of President Barack Obama's healthcare reform law, the efforts center around more than 360 accountable care organizations (ACOs), which are networks of doctors, hospitals and other providers specially organized to help move Medicare away from traditional fee-for-service medicine (Morgan, 1/30).

Modern Healthcare: Providers Net Uneven Results From ACO Experiment
The first results for Medicare's biggest accountable care experiment under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act underscore the uneven progress so far by hospitals and doctors trying to curb healthcare costs by coordinating treatment and reducing unnecessary care. Slightly more than half of the 114 organizations to join one of two Medicare accountable care efforts in 2012 did not reduce health spending below targets during their first 12 months trying to do so, newly released CMS data show (Evans, 1/30).

CQ HealthBeat: New Savings Figures Buoy Hopes For Potential Of Medicare ACOs
Federal officials delivered an upbeat report Thursday on experiments launched under the health care law to re-engineer health care, reporting a "strong start" to programs to establish accountable care organizations and "bundled payment" contracts in which doctors and hospitals coordinate to deliver more efficient care (Reichard, 1/30).

Related KHN Coverage: FAQ On ACOs: Accountable Care Organizations, Explained (Gold, 8/23/2013).

This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.