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7/2/2013
04:14 PM
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9 Pioneer ACOs Expected To Leave Medicare Program

Reasons aren't clear, but quality of data benchmarking and lack of access to claims data are said to be among the gripes.

8 Accountable Care Organizations Worth Closer Examination
8 Accountable Care Organizations Worth Closer Examination
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
The revelation that nine of the 32 accountable care organizations in Medicare's Pioneer program might leave it -- four of them to join the regular Medicare shared savings program (MSSP) -- has raised some eyebrows in the healthcare industry.

The reason is that the Pioneer ACOs, which are among the most advanced healthcare organizations, are expected to take downside risk -- meaning they can lose money -- sooner than the ACOs in the MSSP, which have only upside risk -- meaning they share savings but not losses -- for the first three years. So the departure of nearly a third of the Pioneers would raise some questions about the viability of the government's plan to get providers to take financial responsibility for care.

Tom Cassels, leader of the healthcare advisory board of The Advisory Board Co., told Information Week Healthcare that the exit of the nine Pioneer ACOs, which has been confirmed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), is not terribly significant. For one thing, he noted, the Pioneer ACOs also have risk contracts with commercial payers, self-insured employers and Medicaid plans. So their departure from the Pioneer program doesn't mean that they're shifting back to a fee-for-service system, he said.

[ Need ACO guidelines? Read Will Doctors 'C' The Way To Accountable Care? ]

The decisions of some Pioneers to stay in the program and others to leave it are all very individual, Cassels said. "It could be related to the makeup of their Medicare populations and the complexity of managing those populations with the levers they had available to them."

Medicare patients tend to be relatively high-cost patients with multiple comorbidities that are hard to manage. Depending on how many high-risk patients a given ACO has, he noted, it might be more or less difficult to make money on a Pioneer contract.

In addition, he pointed out, any provider organization that takes financial risk needs three tools to succeed: care management, network management and plan management. While CMS' ACO programs encourage the use of care management tools, they allow Medicare beneficiaries in ACOs to see any providers they want, which means that the ACOs lack control over their networks. In addition, he said, they don't have the ability to offer certain benefits to promote patient engagement, as a Kaiser Permanente or a delegated-risk group in California can do.

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andyx
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andyx,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/5/2013 | 4:54:08 PM
re: 9 Pioneer ACOs Expected To Leave Medicare Program
The departing ACO's understand a great deal more than might be obvious. CMS has a mindset that reshapes the reality of US public healthcare as successful policy. the basis of that perspective is that the fundamental data upon which policy and other decisions are made is ripe with error. thus policy formulation, alternative costing models, risk of failure relative to the "downside" becomes guesswork and opinion. the ACO records of care and models for care are inherently different due to the fact that CMS data is corrupted and ACO data is not. thus decisions made by CMS are unsound and largely opinionated while the ACO has to bring a reality into a largely denial environment. Fundamentally, the ACO concept cannot work because CMS cannot see the validity of it.
jaysimmons
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jaysimmons,
User Rank: Apprentice
7/11/2013 | 10:25:55 PM
re: 9 Pioneer ACOs Expected To Leave Medicare Program
When it comes to the pioneer ACOs leaving the program, it is
pretty understandable that they calculated their potential loses or profits and
realizing that they are running a risk took the decision to move to MSSP. If my
organization would be taking a bigger risk with one program when there is
another safer option available, I would move as well.

Jay Simmons
Information Week Contributor
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