Regulations for Accountable Care Organizations due by the end of next week, federal official says

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A top deputy at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Tuesday that the agency hopes to issue draft regulations concerning accountable care organizations by the end of the month.

Speaking to the Nashville Health Care Council Tuesday morning, Marilyn Tavenner, principal deputy administrator and chief operating officer at CMS, said the draft regulations would not include a broad rollout of ACOs. Rather, CMS will be taking a pilot program approach, she said, noting the need to test different program models. Accountable care organizations will be a new way for bundling government reimbursements to providers.

Tavenner also spoke about the future of CMS and its embattled administrator, Don Berwick. Forty-two senators recently signed a letter saying they would block Berwick's nomination regardless of circumstances. (McKnight's, 3/7/11). That is more than enough votes to do so. Tavenner has been mentioned in some quarters as a likely replacement for Berwick.

Addressing such rumors, Tavenner said Tuesday that the agency would not change its approach if she were to be nominated. The agency has a specific five-year plan based on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and CMS will continue to follow that plan, she said.