Medicare ACOs boosted quality, savings in 2015, CMS reports

More than 100 Medicare Accountable Care Organizations qualified for shared savings payments in 2015 by meeting quality performance standards and hitting their savings threshold, according to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. The total savings for the federal government through the program is up to $1.29 billion.

ACOs with more experience also showed improvement over those that recently joined the program, Patrick Conway, M.D., CMS Principal Deputy Administrator and Chief Medical Officer said during a press call Thursday. For example, 42% of ACOS that started in 2012 generated savings above their Minimum Savings Rate, compared to 21% of those that started in 2015.

All of the 12 ACOs participating in the Pioneer Model improved their quality scores over three years. While the beneficiary cohort decreased by nearly a third between 2014 and 2015, the Pioneer Model generated more than $37 million in savings last year.  

There were more mixed results for four Pioneer ACOs that generated losses, with one owing money back. Additionally, there were 83 ACOs which had healthcare costs lower than their benchmark, but not enough to meet the MSR.

Organizations in the Medicare Shared Savings Program also showed notable improvements in 2015, with those that reported in both 2014 and 2015 seeing improvements in 84% of quality measures. Shared Savings Program ACOs reached $429 million in total savings last year.

Those quality and savings results are crucial to the “next steps” for ACOs and other alternative payment models, Conway noted, such as the CMS' goal to have 50% of all Medicare payments delivered through alternative models by 2018.

“[Accountable care organizations] are worth it, because they put the patient at the center of their care,” Conway said.