Medicare ACOs Improved Quality of Care, Lowered Costs in 2015

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Affordable Care Act Accountable Care Organization initiatives put patients at the center of their care while generating more than $1.29 billion in total Medicare savings since 2012

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced the 2015 performance year results for the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model that show physicians, hospitals, and health care providers participating in Accountable Care Organizations continue to make significant improvements in the quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries, while achieving cost savings. Collectively, Medicare Accountable Care Organizations have generated more than $1.29 billion in total Medicare savings since 2012.

“The coordinated, physician-led care provided by Accountable Care Organizations resulted in better care for over 7.7 million Medicare beneficiaries while also reducing costs,” said CMS Acting Administrator Andy Slavitt. “I congratulate these leaders and look forward to significant growth in the program in the coming year.”

In 2015, Medicare Accountable Care Organizations had combined total program savings of $466 million, which includes all Accountable Care Organizations’ experiences, for 392 Medicare Shared Savings Program participants and 12 Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model participants. The results show that more Accountable Care Organizations shared savings in 2015 compared to 2014 and those with more experience tend to perform better over time.

The recent results from the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model show significant improvements in the quality of care providers are offering to an increasing number of Medicare beneficiaries. Accountable Care Organizations are judged on their performance, as well as their improvement, on an array of meaningful metrics that assess the care they deliver. Those metrics include how highly patients rated their doctor, how well clinicians communicated, whether patients are screened for high blood pressure, and their use of Electronic Health Records.

All 12 participants in the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model improved their quality scores from 2012 to 2015 by more than 21 percentage points. Overall quality scores for nine out of 12 Pioneer participants were more than 90 percent in 2015.

Accountable Care Organizations in the Medicare Shared Savings Program also continued to show improvement, with Accountable Care Organizations that reported in both 2014 and 2015 improving on 84 percent of the quality measures that were reported in both years. Additionally, comparing 2014 and 2015 results, average quality performance improved by more than 15 percent on key preventive care measures including screening for risk of future falls, depression screening and follow-up, blood pressure screening and follow-up, and providing pneumonia vaccinations.

By meeting quality performance standards and their savings threshold, 125 Accountable Care Organizations qualified for shared savings payments. Since the passage of the Affordable Care Act, more than 470 Medicare Accountable Care Organizations – serving nearly 8.9 million Medicare beneficiaries – have been established through the Medicare Shared Savings Program, the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization Model, the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization Model, and the Comprehensive End-Stage Renal Disease Care Model.

“Accountable Care Organization initiatives in Medicare continue to grow and achieve positive results in providing better care and health outcomes while spending taxpayer dollars more wisely,” said Dr. Patrick Conway, CMS Principal Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer. “CMS continues to work and partner with providers across the country to improve the way health care is delivered in the United States.”

Accountable Care Organizations were created to change the incentives for how medical care is delivered and paid for in the United States, moving away from a system that rewards the quantity of services to one that rewards the quality of health outcomes. They are groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers who voluntarily come together to develop and execute a plan for a patient’s care and share information, putting the patient at the center of the health care delivery system. In addition, under the proposed Quality Payment Program, health care providers that sufficiently participate in advanced tracks of Medicare Accountable Care Organizations may qualify for exemption from payment adjustments under the Merit-based Incentive Payment System, as well as the additional incentive payments available beginning in 2019 for participation in Advanced Alternative Payment Models.

The Affordable Care Act provides tools, such as Medicare Accountable Care Organizations, to move our health care system toward one that provides patients with high-quality, cost-effective care. Today’s announcement is part of the Administration’s broader strategy to improve the health care system by paying providers for what works, unlocking health care data, and finding new ways to coordinate and integrate care to improve quality. These efforts support the Administration’s goal to have 50 percent of traditional Medicare payments flowing through alternative payment models by 2018 (already, 30 percent of Medicare payments go through alternative models).

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