The Next Wave of Medicare Accountable Care Organizations Matters to You!

Debra L. Ness

February 6, 2015 | Health Care

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is doing more than making quality, comprehensive health insurance more affordable for millions of women and families. It has been supporting the creation, testing, evaluation and now refinement of new models of care designed to improve the quality and value of health care, encourage coordinated management of chronic illnesses, and more actively engage patients in their care.

It is no secret that our current health care system often fails to deliver the high-quality, well-coordinated, patient- and family-centered care that we all want and need. But not everyone knows that, for nearly five years, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been working to change that by developing and testing new models of care delivery in Medicare that are designed to give individuals the right care at the right time and at the right cost.

One of these new models is the Medicare accountable care organization (ACO). ACOs are a promising approach to improving the quality, experience and cost of care because they align payment with value and quality and encourage health care providers to deliver better coordinated, higher quality care. When designed well, they should deliver high-quality, high-value care that treats the patient as a whole person and improves care coordination, access to health care services, and partnerships with patients and families at all level of care.

The next generation of Medicare ACOs will play a key role helping the Obama administration meet the goals and timetables it laid out for Medicare payment and delivery system reform — a historic January announcement that was welcomed by stakeholders of all kinds. Implementing this vision for smarter spending, better care, and healthier outcomes will require partnering with patients and families at every level: in care design, in policy and governance, and at the community level.

To help HHS shape the next evolution of the Medicare ACO program, the Campaign for Better Care, a broad-based coalition of consumer organizations led by the National Partnership, submitted recommendations for how ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) can best serve beneficiaries and their family caregivers. These recommendations lay out consumer priorities for the MSSP program and suggestions for how MSSP ACOs can deliver on all three aspects of the "Triple Aim": better care, better outcomes, and lower costs. Read our coalition comments here.

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