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AMA, AHA weigh in on shared-savings ACOs


By Andis Robeznieks
Posted: April 11, 2012 - 12:45 pm ET
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The American Medical Association applauded physicians' leading role in many of the 27 healthcare organizations (PDF) designated as the first Medicare Shared Savings Program accountable care organizations, while the American Hospital Association expressed support for accountable care's expansion.

The AMA, in a news release, praised the fact that more than half of the first Medicare Shared Savings ACOs are being led by physicians and said that this bodes well for long-term physician interest and participation in the program.

The AMA noted that it advocated for the advance-payment ACO model and that it was pleased to see that five of the groups participating in the program will follow that format.

The CMS announcement "shows that allowing all interested physicians to lead and participate in this new model increases the number of groups forming Medicare ACOs," AMA President Dr. Peter Carmel said in the release. "Physician practices are benefiting from the financial assistance offered by the advanced payment initiative, which was created as a direct result of the AMA's recommendation to CMS. The upfront payments offered through this program help with the cost of starting an ACO, which is especially beneficial for small physician practices."

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In a physician "how-to" manual (PDF) for navigating ACOs and other practice arrangements, the AMA notes the financial and work-flow challenges associated with implementing or transitioning to electronic health-record systems as part of the launch of an ACO.

The first Medicare ACOs will include more than 10,000 physicians, 10 hospitals and 13 smaller physician-led organizations.

AHA spokeswoman Alicia Mitchell said in an e-mail that hospitals "are an important partner in providing accountable care" and that the AHA intends to track the progress of program participants.

In a call with reporters, CMS officials highlighted the variety of organization types involved in the first round of the program.

"There were some people who feared that the only entities that would participate would be hospital-dominated systems," Jonathan Blum, director of the Center for Medicare at the CMS, said in a call with reporters. "That has not happened."

The AMA said this variety will be good for all involved.

"Allowing physicians in all practice settings and sizes to participate increases the number of Medicare ACOs and maximizes the benefits for patients, physicians, taxpayers and the Medicare system as a whole," Carmel said in the release. "While not all physicians will choose to be part of an ACO, allowing all who are interested to participate in this new model helps its prospects for long-term success."

Additional reporting by Melanie Evans.


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