The CMS is expected to soon share news about accountable care organizations, the Affordable Care Act's largest test of new payment models that aim to improve care quality at lower costs.
Contracts for the first ACOs that entered the Shared Savings Program expire at the end of December. Federal officials have not yet said how many of the 220 ACOs will return.
Those that do come back will have new ground rules to follow and new options to choose from. But ACOs are still waiting for specifics.
In June, the CMS unveiled some changes, including many embraced by ACOs. One welcome change allows ACOs to avoid potential penalties for another three years. Others praised a new option for larger potential bonuses but with the risk of larger penalties. But the CMS did not finalize a few key details. One area involves the formula against which the CMS measures how much ACOs manage to save, which will take effect in 2017.
David Muhlestein, Leavitt Partners' senior director of research and development, said the names of returning ACOs and those elusive details are expected before the new year. “We're getting very close,” he said.
The CMS is also expected to announce another group of ACOs to enter the Shared Savings Program for the first time as of Jan. 1, Muhlestein said.
The program, which has delivered uneven savings and some quality gains, has expanded each year since its launch.
HHS has targeted ACOs and bundled payments for aggressive expansion through 2018. Medicare will use ACOs, bundles and similar programs for 30% of its spending by 2016 and 50% by 2018, HHS officials announced in January.