Posted in Accountable Care, ACO, Triple Aim

ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP): Is There a Fix?

by Gregg A. Masters, MPH

The Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform just released ‘How to Fix the Medicare Shared Savings Program‘ with lead author and long term managed health care industry veteran Harold D. Miller, its President and CEO. 

Some six (6) years into the Affordable Care Act (ACA) provisions specific to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) the results remain mixed at best, and like the serial tweaks made to the Medicare Advantage Program, now covering some 30% of Medicare beneficiaries, the underlying ACO structural characteristics and enabling health policy regulations remain ‘on the come‘ for this still nascent and evolving delivery system model.

For the many critics of ACOs as a form of an ‘HMO lite‘ in the fee-for-services Medicare market, with none of the channeling characteristics commonly associated with HMOs, this comes as no surprise.

In this just released report, Harold Miller weighs in on the fix he sees essential for the program to achieve it’s cost containment and quality improvement objectives.  The executive summary is posted below and the full report is available here.

Executive summary:

Rather than generating savings as expected, the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) has created losses for the Medicare program for four years in a row.

Calculations by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) appear to show that ACOs with downside risk produce higher savings than the “upside-only” ACOs. However, Medicare actually spends more per beneficiary in the downside risk ACOs than in other ACOs, with no difference in quality. Moreover, ACOs that have moved to the downside risk tracks have saved less after doing so.

The risk adjustment and benchmarking formulas used by CMS can penalize ACOs that serve higher-need patients and patients living in rural areas. The greater savings attributed to downside risk ACOs may have more to do with differences in the types of patients they see than differences in the way they deliver care.

Concerns about the problems with the risk adjustment and benchmarking methodologies in the MSSP have made many ACOs unwilling to enter the downside risk tracks. Requiring all ACOs to move to downside risk could force successful ACOs to leave the program, thereby reducing Medicare savings and harming the quality of care for millions of beneficiaries.

There are other options for modifying the Medicare Shared Savings Program in order to increase Medicare savings, including dropping ACOs from the program if they fail to achieve savings after two consecutive years, reducing shared savings payments for ACOs that incur losses before achieving savings, reducing the shared savings rate below 50% for Track 1 ACOs, and/or enabling ACOs to take accountability for the specific types of services they can control rather than placing them at risk for
total Medicare spending.

Neither shared savings nor shared risk payment models solve the fundamental problems in the fee-for-service payment system. As a result, it is unlikely the MSSP will ever result in significant savings or improvements in quality, and it has the potential to harm patients by rewarding providers that withhold necessary services.

Instead of continuing to modify the Medicare Shared Savings Program, CMS should focus on implementing Patient-Centered Alternative Payment Models that provide the resources physicians, hospitals, and other providers need to successfully address their patients’ healthcare needs while holding the providers accountable for those aspects of spending and quality they can control.

Twitter Dialogue on ACO Results Reported

Today on twitter there was a representative exchange from both sides of the ACO narrative which I’m posting below for context:

MANas8U's avatar

True! Yet innovation is not cheap + anything even moderately at scale in Medicare/Medicaid is definitely not cheap. Questions while innovating: What did we learn? How can we inform our future efforts? @policywonk1

danmunro's avatar

I would argue that the evidence is already in b/c the trajectory we’re on is easy to see – and forecast. Just labeling newer efforts of ‘cost containment’ as ‘innovation’ is like rearranging (in this case expensive) deck chairs.

danmunro's avatar

But that may be the same hymnal in title only: HC Reformation I don’t think #FFS is “an addiction” that needs #ACO or #VBP rehab and the evidence that #FFS works reasonably well around the world is compelling. We don’t need single-payer, but we absolutely need single-pricing.

A Sampling of ACO Leadership on the Center for Healthcare Quality and Payment Reform Report and Associated Remedies

Our Nation’s move from volume to value based care will not occur in one day. Transformation of our complex, misaligned and disjointed healthcare system will take the hard/smart work, dedication, risk and financial support from key stakeholders, including the largest being CMS. Transition to risk based/value based care is not an option, it is a necessity not only to save but successfully advance the US Health Care system. It is easier to point out problems, than to roll up our collective sleeves and develop innovative and outside the box solutions.  – Alex Foxman, MD, FACP, CMO, President and Co-Founder National ACO, LLC

The state of Florida is a great example of ACOs having success.  I believe this is true because we already have a vibrant managed care market.  Medicare Advantage makes a lot of people money but has not proved it has saved any.  It has only served to risk adjust a population for higher revenues.  ACOs, as originally designed, may only be ‘transitional’ but they are an important step toward shifting from volume to value payment models. We should expect the models will continue to evolve.  This shift is a jog not a sprint. The goal and focus should be on the “shift” not which model and flavor is the stepping stone along the way. – Nicole Bradberry, CEO and Chair of Board, Florida Association of ACOs 

ACOs in Florida reduced expense by $365,809,069, earned shared savings payments of $178,447,886 with a net benefit to the Medicare trust fund of $187,361,183. MSSP is working in Florida! We’re concerned that the success of the MSSP is being evaluated based aggregate ACO performance which includes ACOs who are not putting forth adequate effort. I know of at least 7 ACOs that have 2 or less employees. That’s not enough effort to make ANY business model work! Unfortunately their results are tabulated with others and cause the program to be inaccurately evaluated. We look forward to the required transition to downside risk as it will require those without much commitment to drop out. If you drop the minimum effort ACOs, we expect the aggregate ACO results will look different. This is PY 2016 data… –  David Klebonis, Chief Operating Officer, Palm Beach Accountable Care Organization & Chief Operating Officer, South Florida Accountable Care Organization 

One definition of literal fantasy requires only that we accept a single non-reality, after which the rest of the story becomes quite plausible. If that be the case, Mr. Miller has written a Best Seller. His entire analysis assumes that the CMS “Shared Savings” formulas reflect reality, when those of us that have really crunched the numbers know this is far from the truth.

Intentionally or not, CMS has built significant savings for the Trust Fund into the benchmark methodologies for both MSSP and NextGen. These range from the actuarial fallacies inherent in continuous attribution, successful ACO market share effects on the “Benchmark”, National Efficiency ratios that divert Benchmark dollars from high attribution areas to low attribution areas, risk score caps, automatic “discounts” and much, much more.

Still, it seems that our Florida ACOs consistently overcome the increasing headwinds and succeed. Additionally, CMS recognizes the problems in their own Benchmarking models and has tweaked these year after year, including the latest Proposed Rule submitted by MSSP to OMB earlier this month. I fear Mr. Miller is whistling past the graveyard on this one.

For a glimpse into a few of the methodology problems, see ‘Regional Benchmarking or Regional Bonus? Sustainability in the Medicare Shared Savings Program‘. – Richard J. Lucibella, CEO, Accountable Care Options

 

A Continued Search for Answers and Business Models

Further context sourced from the Florida Association of ACOs annual conference last year was provided by Aledade co-founder and CEO and former National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at the Office of the National Coordinator Farzad Mostashari, MD here.

Weigh In

So what do you think? Please offer your thoughts in the comments section. This is a dialogue well worth a broader exchange as our industry evolves perhaps even ‘pivots’ from it’s near term PCMH or ACO roots to a the valued based healthcare model – one that many refer to as a ‘Rorschach test’ of sorts – where any projection of what constitutes a value based model will do.
Please feel free to post any resources that support your take and we’ll happily include via our social reach. If any of you are inspired to author a guest post with references of citations, we’re happy to include at ACO Watch.

 

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Posted in Accountable Care

In Pursuit of the Triple Aim: Can Population Health Management Lead the Way?

By Fred Goldstein, MS and Gregg Masters, MPH

Every sector in health care is under pressure to articulate and implement a viable population health initiative that delivers on the triple aim of better health, better quality at a better cost.

Despite a significant investment of resources, we have only achieved ‘mixed results’ to date, and so the industry remains in a continuous learning mode. Although we’ve taken away some insights, we still have a long way to go.

Recently on Pophealth Week, we chatted with the ‘Dean’ of Population Health who spearheaded and continues to steward the nation’s first freestanding College of Population Health at Jefferson University in Philadelphia. David Nash, MD, MBA weighed in on the industry’s evolution — including best practices to emulate —and what near term challenges we are likely to face.

To listen to Dr. Nash’s take, click here, and for additional context checkout The Road From Volume-To-Value: The Pivotal Role of Population Health.

If you’ve worked in this space – at the strategy or operational level — you know that it can be truly daunting to implement a population health program. This can lead some organizations to shy away from attempting meaningful programs, perhaps even into a copycat ‘me too’ effort. Given the inevitable drive to value-based care, it is a strategic imperative to understand how to build and implement population health initiatives that work.

In its simplest framework, one can think of a population health program in terms of the following components as articulated by the Population Health Alliance Outcomes Guidelines Report Volume 6,  2015.

The steps of the Population Health Framework as shown in the image above include:

  • Identify the population
  • Assess the person for risk(s)
  • Stratify the person into risk levels to target for various interventions
  • Engage the person in a program
  • Intervene with specific services and resources and
  • Measure the process and outcome results

These results are then fed back into the system and the process continued all seeking to improve the overall health of the population.

In Search of Answers

One forum many look to for best practices and key insights is the Population Health Colloquium, now in its 18th year with the Jefferson College of Population Health as academic partner. Scanning this year’s Agenda, one can find presentations in each of the elements above.

Data and Analytics are the essential ingredients of any population health program with intent to identify individuals, assess them for various risks or conditions, stratify them to ensure appropriate levels of intervention and measure a program’s success.

Within the area of assessment, we are moving to an ‘N of 1’ approach given the advances in precision medicine and genomics. This exciting area will be covered at the conference in the mini summit entitled Personalized Medicine, Machine Learning and Genomics: a Clinical Approach to Employer Population Health and Wellbeing.

Payment models and the move to value-based care are among the key levers. Although there have been more than a few stops and starts along the way with the change in administration at the federal level, employers are rapidly embracing these approaches.  There are a number of presentations on this topic, including Journey to Value-Based Care — Experience and Expectations, Accountable Care Atlas: Mapping a Path to Value-Based Care and a Mini Summit ACOs at an Inflection Point: Where the Movement is Headed and Why Some Succeed While Others Don’t.

In the Intervention area, there are presentations covering ‘On the Ground: Population Health initiatives’… and we can’t forget about the patients — they, too, have a strong role to play in these efforts. The Mini Summit, Improving Patient Care and Provider Experience through Population Health Management, is timely and informative.

Community-based programs have become all the rage as we better understand the impact on your health based on where and how you live.  A breakout track entitled Population Health in the Community includes discussions on life expectancy gaps in Chicago; Rural and Urban Issues; and primary care and behavioral health that will address some of the approaches.

The program will feature a session on designing and implementing population health, and of course there will be some incredible keynotes and small panel discussions. The program includes a discussion with two former HHS Secretaries, Tommy Thompson and Michael Leavitt, and baseball great Darryl Strawberry will discuss addiction, a critical issue we are now facing with the opioid crisis.

If you are committed to learning more about Population Health, this meeting is a must. It’s an event where you can learn from experts covering the full breadth of population health services and have an opportunity to network. Whether you choose to travel to Philadelphia or attend via live webinar, please plan to join us and stop by to say hello. We’d love to hear all about what you’re doing in this exciting space.

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This post is sponsored by the Jefferson College of Population Health

Posted in Accountable Care, ACO, Triple Aim

Leavitt Partners Weigh in on Medicare, APMs and Provider Readiness for Pivot

by Gregg A. Masters, MPH

It’s been busy since our re-launch at This Week in Accountable Care primarily due to the heavy lifting support from National ACO co-founders, Andre Berger MD, CEO, and Alex Foxman, MD, President and Chief Medical Officer, respectively.

While I moderate the series, Drs. Berger and Foxman serve as co-hosts and subject matter experts as we engage thought leaders and best-in-class ACO operators in focused conversation around local or regional market challenges including headwinds, tailwinds, lessons learned and emerging best practices.

Recently we’ve chatted with top national talent including: Don Crane, CEO, of CAPG, Hal Sadowy, the IPA Association of America, Jay Parkinson, MD, Founder and CEO of Sherpaa Health and author, consultant and futurist Ian Morrison.

Our all-star line-up continues in October with David Muhlestein, PhD, JD, Chief Research Officer, Leavitt Partners on Tuesday October 3rd, Farzad Mostashari, MD, Founder & CEO of Aledade on October 17th, and the rock-star advocate to fix the Affordable Care Act and former Acting Administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Administration (CMS), Andy Slavitt on October 31st.

For our chat with David Muhlestein, PhD, JD, Leavitt Partners, Chief Research Officer you may want to read: Medicare Alternative Payment Models: Not Every Provider Has a Path Forward.

An informative Whitepaper that lays out the range of challenges most health systems, IDNs, physicians whether in groups or not face in the pivot to a value based (alternative payment models – APMs).

From the Whitepaper:

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) has shown significant support for the development of Alternative Payment Models (APMs).

CMS’ development and testing of 45 payment models has led to the adoption of similar models by other payers. Initial reports indicate that APMs could be key to producing the health care delivery reform necessary to decrease health care costs and increase delivery quality.

However, these models are only available to select provider types, and some providers, such as emergency physicians and audiologists, have no Medicare APMs in which they can participate. To realize the full benefits of APMs, additional collaboration between CMS leadership and providers is needed to develop new models for providers who do not currently have access to them.

Be sure to join us October 3rd at 5PM Pacific/8PM Eastern for a conversation with David Muhlestein on This Week in Accountable Care with Andre Berger, MD and Alex Foxman, MD. co-founders of National ACO.

Posted in Accountable Care, ACO, Affordable Care Act, Medicaid ACO

Tufts Health Plan Forms MassHealth Accountable Care Organization Partnership with Four Provider Organizations

Press Release | Watertown, MA | August 18, 2017 

The Massachusetts Executive Office of Health and Human Services (EOHHS) recently announced that Tufts Health Plan has signed contracts to form Medicaid (MassHealth) Accountable Care Organization (ACO) partnerships with four provider organizations:  Atrius HealthBeth Israel Deaconess Care OrganizationCambridge Health Alliance, and Boston Children’s Accountable Care Organization.

The new ACOs feature a value‐based payment structure for providers who had largely been paid fee for service for MassHealth members in the past.  For members, this means the opportunity to receive medical, behavioral, dental and long-term support services in an integrated model of care.  This will improve quality of care, the member experience, and potentially help stabilize Medicaid costs in Massachusetts.

“We support the Commonwealth’s goal of providing integrated health care to MassHealth members that is more efficient and improves their overall health,” said Tom Croswell, president and CEO of Tufts Health Plan.  “We have partnered with four highly-regarded provider groups, all of whom share our vision of what collaboration and highly coordinated care can look like.”

Continued Croswell:  “Tufts Health Plan has an excellent reputation for our collaborative approaches with providers.  We’ve been working with value-based contracts for more than 20+ years, starting in our Medicare Advantage plans.  We know first-hand that working closely with providers on coordinating care results in healthier members.  We’re excited to broaden our success and bring this approach to our Medicaid members.”

MassHealth ACO transformation is a major component in the state’s five-year innovative 1115 Medicaid waiver from the federal government, which allows Massachusetts to restructure the current health care delivery system for 1.9 million MassHealth members.

Tufts Health Plan’s ACO partners are:

  • Atrius Health, which provides high quality, patient-centered and coordinated care to more than 740,000 adult and pediatric patients in eastern and central Massachusetts.
  • Beth Israel Deaconess Care Organization, a value-based physician and hospital network that partners with providers to improve quality of care while effectively managing medical expenses.
  • Boston Children’s Accountable Care Organization is an ACO comprising Boston Children’s Hospital and its affiliated primary and specialty care physicians. Boston Children’s Hospital is the No. 1 ranked Children’s Hospital in the nationand is a 415-bed comprehensive center for pediatric and adolescent health care.
  • Cambridge Health Alliance, an academic community health system committed to providing high quality care in Cambridge, Somerville and Boston’s metro-north communities. CHA has expertise in primary care, specialty care and mental health/substance use services, as well as caring for diverse and complex populations.

 

Editor’s Note: We are in the process in scheduling a Tufts Health Plan executive on an episode of This Week in Accountable Care with Andre Berger, MD and Alex Foxman, CEO and President/CMO of National ACO. Once confirmed we’ll post the details here with a profile of Tufts Health.

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Posted in Accountable Care, ACO

A Day in the Life of an ACO Chief Executive

By Gregg A. Masters, MPH

Transforming a $3.2+ trillion dollar economy where approximately 1 in 5 dollars of GDP finds its way into the healthcare financing and delivery ecosystem is no small challenge. Decades of variably branded health policy initiatives from HMOs and PPOs to their arguably derivative reincarnated ‘brethren’ ACOs all presented with the promise of taming what remains a rather rapacious appetite for ‘more‘ in a complex do more to earn more web of financial incentives.

The most recent addition to this effort was delivered via the Affordable Care Act courtesy of President Obama in March of 2010. Accountable Care Organizations (ACO’s) are defined as follows:

ACOs are groups of doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers, who come together voluntarily to give coordinated high quality care to their Medicare patients.

The goal of coordinated care is to ensure that patients, especially the chronically ill, get the right care at the right time, while avoiding unnecessary duplication of services and preventing medical errors.

When an ACO succeeds both in delivering high-quality care and spending health care dollars more wisely, it will share in the savings it achieves for the Medicare program.  –  Centers for Medicare and Medicaid

Meet Dr. Andre Berger

Andre Berger, MD is a busy man committed to move the needle towards the seemingly conflicting goals of the ‘tripe aim’ – better experience of care, with improved outcomes at lower per capita costs.

This multi-board certified physician has a lot on his plate – a busy cosmetic surgery and anti-aging medical practice as well as the chief executive officer of a primary care physician led and governed next generation accountable care organization (ACO) with a successful five year operating history.

I first learned of  Dr. Berger as a result of my interest following and reporting on Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) for ACO Watch. Dr. Berger was listed as the CEO of National ACO admitted to the first class of participating ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) as an advanced payment model. Then I noticed the office for National ACO was headquartered in Beverly Hills, California on the very street I called ‘home’ while serving as Director of Managed Care for American Medical International (now operating as Tenet Healthcare) California Region –  I thought to myself what a coincidence! I need to learn more about this enterprising physician and wondered why a surgeon specializing in a direct pay (non 3rd party reimbursed) specialty for often ‘non-covered’ services from a typical group or individual health benefit point of view, be leading such an effort?

This co-mingling of seemingly divergent interests convinced me there is a deeper story to uncover possibly with an important message for physicians, hospitals, and patients given the current instability of our volume driven healthcare delivery and financing model.

Fast forward some four years + later, and I’ve been invited to advise National ACO on their social media presence and to develop a portfolio of digital assets for a growing thought leadership library.

On recent trip from South Lake Tahoe to cover BIO 2017 the global annual go-to gathering of the best and brightest minds in the biotech sector in San Diego, I was invited in to ‘shadow’ Dr. Berger and get a feel for a typical day in his life at the helm of National ACO.

Tuesday 8:30 AM

While Dr. Berger is CEO of National ACO (NACO) a growing enterprise with lean staffing he maintains his clinical practice so balancing workflow is a challenge addressed by having dedicated NACO days, and in office or surgery patient days. Today was an NACO day.

Dr. Berger arrives at the office equipped with briefcase including his accessorized iPhone, MacAir, iPad. AppleWatch, associated peripherals and a series of file folders. What follows is a series back-to-back phone calls, tech-enabled virtual staff meetings and seemingly non-stop text messaging.

The first call is with the Medical Director of NACO’s PET (provider engagement team) and the subject is physician performance (both quality and financial) reviews.

Next up is executive staff meeting with a long list of action items finalizing a progress report due to CMS.

Key themes include overall and regional performance of  on annual wellness visits (AWV) and chronic care management (CCM) programs.

Given growth in NACO there’s considerable discussion on staffing needs, particularly acute is recruiting a Director of Care Management given a tight market and low supply of candidates, NACO may need to retain search firm. Finding qualified case managers and care management staffs sound equally challenging.

The ‘mobile physician’ waiver (allowing physician access to patient’s homes to provide transitions of care consults) is delegated to the chief medical officer, NACO plans to deploy in Q3. Will help with CM staffing and population management.

Provider Network Managers to inventory ‘at risk’ patients to put on care managers’ priority screening. Is vendor a reliable source? May need to vet further for accuracy and then prioritize.

Other agenda items included: contracting with nursing homes, hospice providers, reviewing stop loss policy, discussion of ESRD patient mix, and possibility of contracting with key nephrologist or nephrology group(s).

All with intent to ID ‘preferred providers’ and ultimately tag for population based payments.

9:30 AM GOTO Meeting Conference Call (to review performance results)

Reviewing IT vendor dashboard detailing physician performance by ACO, region, etc. Considerable discussion on the need to manually design custom reports and the duty of that burden falling on the physician or whomever is pulling the data have to input the requested parameters.

Further discussion topics include: evidencing completion events for quality metrics reporting, the status of hospital real time ‘ping system‘ alerting ACO physicians of admits, discharges or transfers. It was affirmed that efficacy of the notification program requires two pings: one to admitting physician, the second to NACO medical director.

Considerable discussion on vendor performance and opportunities for workflow improvement.

HR issues (mostly need for additional staff).

Dilution agreement (issues associated with NACO capital raise via PPM to participating physicians, medical groups or IPAs.

10:10 Management Meeting – Agenda

Routine conversation on travel policy and company preference to avoid ‘non refundable’ airline ticket purchases. Recommended leveraging tools available via concierge support services as often as practical.

Balance of meeting agenda deferred to NACO operations manager. On tap is IRR review of ’Project Plan Requirements’.

Define compliance reporting to NGACO Governing Body members. What does this include? In the minutes. All needs to line up with contracting obligations.

Definition of ‘beneficiary representative’ who is this? Definition of ‘Certified Participants’? Quest was submitted by NACO as ‘preferred provider’.

Same (COI) issue for ‘consumer advocate’.

Key issue is defining ‘joint venture’ (JV)? For purposes of disclosure requirements. Are lab vendor relationships a JV? What about PBMs?

Training and Education program need be developed. Need to source CMS requirements NGACOs.

Need project format with due dates and compliance checks.

Letter re: advantages of joining NACO. Details calculations and benefits of affiliation.

Need fine tune the ‘marketing materials’ for physician recruitment and any special considerations for appeal via IPAs.

Physician outreach need stay away from ‘guarantees’, but stipulate shared savings participation on an ongoing performance basis.

Next Generation ACO Deadlines and Calendar: Webinar schedule, voluntary alignment dates, provider risk stratification meeting, the need for executive breakout session to review tier assignment, engagement level and appropriate notice and cure periods. Deadline is 9/29 for removal from NACO panels. Report period 2017 or rolling 12 months.

Recent submission to CMS certified. Break out by physicians, TINs and preferred providers.

Population Based Payment: what’s plan, deadline and status?

PBP Agreements are just now being sent out to target physicians.

Follow-up planned one week post mailing.

Senior staff query: how are we engaging our medical directors to facilitate recruitment and participation PBP program? May need to develop video on PBP program directed to target physicians with outreach via NACO medical directors.

Chronic Care Management program update included number of care plans completed, outbound call volumes, number of patients in program, sorted by minutes to meet marks.

Care Manager recruitment status report.

Revenue pro-forma review, including ‘consent’ status and whether ‘on plan’ or not.

Group recruitment update: Signs two agreements to perfect NACO/Group relationships: TIN affiliation agreement, and group participation agreements.

Channel partner initiative. Vetting potential IPAs for outreach purposes.

When recruiting multiple docs, NACO assists with formation of ‘POD’. How defined? Filing required. Maybe role for regional PODs or eve ’super PODS’.

When they get participation letter, who do they call? No specific name listed. Now only directed to general phone number.

SNF Rollout. Primary scope is 3 day SNF waiver portion. Tracking referrals and performance needs improvement.

Remainder of agenda included: Referral tracking and management vendor options, telehealth update, AWV proposal plan given 27.8% completed 2017 v. 21% in 2016 performance and target at 70-80%.

ACOs that incentivize AWVs show shared savings. Need see ROI on internal vs. outsourced AWVs.

1:20 PM Meeting with Operations Manager for update

Status of group recruitments in California, Colorado and other regions.

Worked on letter on ’physician recruitment’ upsides of participation.

Review responses to RFP for IT vendor replacement.

Review of marketing and communication efforts including social media activities.

3:30 PM

Conference call with IT vendor RFP consultant, with status vendor submission ratings.

4;30 PM

Free flowing debrief with Dr. Berger on day’s wide ranging and non-stop series of activities. Included question of whether or not to re-do a previous broadcast of This Week in Accountable Care which experienced some audio quality issues due to the moderator originating the broadcast from BIO International Conventions media center.

5:30 PM

Calling it a day, Dr. Berger drops me off at my car.

Comment

It’s very clear to me that managing an institutionally ‘untethered’ and physician led ACO – while more agile, if you will – is none-the-less a complex and challenging affair. There are many moving parts and with multiple parties coming into and out of key management decisions – both virtually and ‘IRL” – with all the attendant people and systems’ challenges, keeping focused and moving the enterprise forward takes constant vigilance.

When you add the complexity of the volume-to-value transformational imperative into the successful operation and scaled growth into the enterprise agenda, you begin to get a picture of what Dr. Berger, his physician colleagues and administrative staff face on a daily basis.

When you add the advantages (and associated duty to leverage them in support of the elusive triple aim) afforded by CMS specific to Next Generation Models such as National ACO, that complexity takes on an additional duty of care to manifest the ambitious but worthwhile mission of transforming U.S. Healthcare from a volume driven system to one that materially embraces a value based and outcomes oriented future.

My hat is off to this ambitious physician enterprise!

 

 

 

Posted in Accountable Care, ACO, Affordable Care Act

What, What? ACOs Not ‘DOA’?

by Gregg A. Masters, MPH

When the Affordable Care Act passed in March of 2010 and the law’s many moving parts analyzed by the ecosystem stakeholders including operators, health wonks and patient advocates many weighed in that ACOs were doomed to fail. They were just too ‘tepid’ to make a material contribution to the volume to value transformational journey. Complaints included little control over patients who ‘voted with their feet’ while ACOs bore the liability of their choices whether in upside only track vs. the downside of exposure of track two, flawed retrospective attribution methodologies and data dumps and reporting lags from CMS all handicapped the proactive management of ‘risk’ assumed by participating ACOs in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

Noted futurist Jeff Goldsmith captured the spirit in Pioneer ACOs: Anatomy Of A ‘Victory’ post in Health Affairs:

With over 17 million Medicare beneficiaries voluntarily choosing MA thus far, and enrollment growing at more than 10 percent annually despite three years of CMS payment reductions in real dollars, it is increasingly clear the future of managed Medicare lies in the MA program, not with directly contracted shared savings models.

Co-incident with the ramp up of the Medicare ACO cohort the private sector jumped on the bandwagon, operating with higher degrees of contractual terms and conditions freedom than promulgated by CMS to participating MSSP’s. Aetna, the Blues, United et al negotiated their version of ‘accountable care’ arrangements with participation IPAs, PHOs, IDNs, health systems, medical groups or physician networks.

Five years later, we have some important data recently reported by Health Affairs that suggests ACOs are far from the neutered enterprises many suggested and while mixed in terms of results reported ACOs have found their place in the managed competition ecosystem and are not likely to disappear any time soon.

The headline at Health Affairs is as follows: Growth Of ACOs And Alternative Payment Models In 2017.

As of the end of the first quarter of 2017, our inventory included 923 active public and private ACOs across the United States, covering more than 32 million lives (Figure 1). The increase of 2.2 million covered lives in the past year means that more than 10 percent of the U.S. population is now covered by an accountable care contract (Note 1).

As the ACO model matures, there is now some turnover, with organizations joining and leaving the model. Since the first quarter of 2016, 138 new ACOs began operation, and 46 ACOs dropped their accountable care contracts, representing a net increase of 92 organizations becoming ACOs, or an 11 percent growth.

From the nominal ACO count basis to the number of lives associated with the aggregate arrangements, this is an impressive tally for such an allegedly ‘anemic‘ model!

Now enter the Next Generation ACO Model. For details, see: Next Generation ACOs: A Deep Dive Series and Meet the Next Generation ACO Cohort.

 

 

 

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Posted in Accountable Care, ACO, Affordable Care Act

Meet the Next Generation ACO Cohort

by Gregg A. Masters, MPH

As announced in ‘Next Generation ACOs: A Deep Dive Serieswe’re launching a multimedia (blog, internet radio, social media and community tweetchats) programming schedule that will focus on the accountable care industry with specific deep dives into select participants in the cohort admitted by the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation.

Next Generation ACO Model

Written versions of those interviews will post on ACO Watch, with audio versions featured on This Week in Accountable Care’ on the BlogTalk Radio and Affiliate Networks.

If you are interested in the Next Generation ACO Model, see: The Next Generation ACO: Accelerating the Transformation from Volume to Value and the CMS Webinar: Next Generation ACO Model – Overview and LOI Information with key webinar dates and application deadlines.

For those interested in learning more about the rather ‘eclectic’ (academic, physician led, hospital system sponsored and venture backed) class of 44 ACOs in the NextGen Cohort, I’ve listed them below: 

We intend to host monthly moderated ‘tweetchats’ to engage the community of stakeholders via #ACOchat and welcome your input on the preference of the participating ACOs you’d like us to profile.

Please post in the comments section.

Cheers!

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*Editor’s Note: This post including This Week in Accountable Care broadcasts, periodic tweetchats via #ACOchat and blog posts in this series) are sponsored by National ACO, a Next Generation ACO. For more information on National ACO, click here.