No Significant Savings from Medicare ACO Test Results

Results from a government experiment intended to lower costs and coordinate care for Medicare patients reveal no significant savings. The test, which lasted five years, recruited 10 leading health systems and offered financial bonuses if they provided older patients with efficient, high-quality care.

According to an official evaluation (which has yet to be published), in the final year, 2010, just four of the 10 well-established groups run by doctors reduced their Medicare spending enough to qualify for a bonus. The evaluation shows that two saved enough when collecting on medical bills to get bonuses in all five years, while three didn’t succeed even once.
The patchy results are significant because they involve ACOs (accountable care organizations), which are very trendy in health policy and were also included in the year-old federal law meant to overhaul the nation’s health-care system. A twist on the old concept of managed care, the law calls for the Medicare program to approve teams of doctors or hospitals to run such organizations beginning in January. Important details aside, the basic outline and new ACOs are as follows: Medicare shares savings with health organizations if they can reach specific hallmarks of quality while treating older people for less money.

Recent studies have shown that when a medical group becomes an ACO it can lose money—at least for the first few years—due to the financial investments made in record-keeping and other changes predicted by the government. Stay tuned for more on this story and other integrated medical care news in Henderson.

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