New HHS initiatives aim to bolster key health reform provision

The Obama administration on Tuesday announced three new initiatives to encourage physicians and hospitals to better coordinate care after a key regulation came under intense criticism over the past week.

Democrats' healthcare reform law seeks to transform the way government programs such as Medicare reimburse medical providers by rewarding them for quality rather than quantity of care. A key tool to get there are the so-called accountable care organizations (ACOs) that allow providers to keep a portion of the money they save Medicare by working together, but leading healthcare systems such as the Mayo Clinic and Geisinger have told the government that proposed ACO regulations are too stringent and costly for them to participate.

The new initiatives include: 

• A Pioneer ACO Model aimed at organizations that have already started coordinating care for patients;

• An Advanced Payment ACO Initiative that would allow certain participants in the program to get part of their expected savings up front to invest in care coordination; and 

• Free Accelerated Development Learning Sessions to help providers learn how they can improve care delivery and coordination.

The new initiatives will be run out of the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, which was created by the healthcare reform law.