Accountable care organizations are practically a footnote in the health law, but advocates say they’ll be critical to holding down the cost of care while improving quality
By Jenny Gold
KHN Staff Writer
APR 16, 2014
One of the main ways the Affordable Care Act seeks to reduce health care costs is by encouraging doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to form networks which coordinate patient care and become eligible for bonuses when they deliver that care more efficiently.
The law takes a carrot-and-stick approach by encouraging the formation of Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) in the Medicare program. Providers make more if they keep their patients healthy. About four million Medicare beneficiaries are now in an ACO, and, combined with the private sector, more than 428 provider groups have already signed up.
An estimated 14 percent of the U.S. population is now being served by an ACO. You may even be in one and not know it.
While ACOs are touted as a way to help fix an inefficient payment system that rewards more, not better, care, some economists warn they could lead to greater consolidation in the health care industry, which could allow some providers to charge more if they’re the only game in town.
ACOs have become one of the most talked about new ideas in Obamacare. Here are answers to some of the more common questions about how they work: Continue reading