Program will help mold ACOs to fit states' unique health systems

Medicaid agencies from Maine, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, Oregon, Texas and Vermont will participate in an accountable care organization (ACO) initiative under the auspices of the Center for Health Care Strategies (CHCS), a non-profit health policy resource center. The collaborative 14-month effort will help the states tailor ACOs based on the unique qualities of their health systems.

Efforts are already underway across the country to develop ACOs to serve the senior population and via various programs offered by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which earlier this year unveiled 27 health systems that will participate in one of its ACO efforts, the Medicare Shared Savings Program.

The CHCS program, called “Advancing Medicaid Accountable Care Organizations: A Learning Collaborative" is supported by The Commonwealth Fund, with additional financial support provided by Massachusetts Medicaid Policy Institute, a program of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts Foundation.

"ACOs have great potential to improve care for vulnerable populations at the ground level and link payment with care improvements," said Pamela Riley, MD, senior program officer at The Commonwealth Fund in a press release. "We look forward to contributing to, and learning from, the progress of these state innovators in exploring ACOs as an effective mechanism to drive high-value, high-quality care in Medicaid."

Technical assistance will focus on four areas:

  • designing the essential building blocks for an ACO program;
  • building a financing, data-sharing, and measurement approach;
  • obtaining federal approval; and
  • implementing the ACO program.

Lessons learned in the participating states will be shared with other states looking to launch their own ACO initiatives.

"We have been intrigued about the potential for safety net ACOs to increase care coordination and curb spending for some of the nation's highest-risk, highest-cost patients," said Stephen A. Somers, CHCS president in a prepared statement. "The participating states deserve to be recognized for pioneering new care delivery models in their communities to propel this emerging field."

Click here for more information on the program and for additional resources on ACOs.