More Hospitals, Doctors Setting Up Accountable Care Organizations
Spurred by a new Medicare incentive program included in the health reform law, a growing number of U.S. physicians and independent hospital systems are seeking to form alliances that provide a coordinated system of care, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Such alliances, known as accountable care organizations, usually are led by large hospital systems and require local physicians to give up their private fee-for-service practices for a paid position on the hospitals' teams.
The overhaul stipulates that Medicare reward ACOs that improve the quality of care for patients while reducing costs.
ACOs Already In Practice
A few U.S. medical institutions, such as the Mayo Clinic and Kaiser Permanente, already have formed successful ACOs, according to the Times.
Spurred by the overhaul, many physicians are following suit, and in some areas the push to form ACOs is so great that physicians are signing new partnerships almost daily.
Patrick Carrier, head of the Christus Santa Rosa Health System, said, "It's kind of like the Oklahoma land rush right now. Everyone has their wagons lined up and they're getting ready to go."
Experts Debate Pros, Cons
During the reform debate, health policy experts argued that this unified approach to medical care offered the best hope of raising the standard of care, ensuring better outcomes for patients and reducing costs.
Since the enactment of the reform law, health experts and providers have encouraged providers to re-evaluate how they operate to offer the best standard of care.
However, it is possible that the new wave of interest to form ACOs could fail to offer successful models of care or produce the anticipated results. According to the Times, consolidation of the multibillion-dollar health care industry could drive up costs across the board.
The alliances also could raise concerns similar to those that surfaced in the 1990s with HMOs, which were widely criticized for restricting patients' options and access to care (Levey, Los Angeles Times, 7/28).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.