Tag Archives: Medicare Shared Savings Program

CMS Extends Waivers under the ACO Shared Savings Program

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

On November 2, 2011, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) promulgated the interim final rule on fraud and abuse waivers for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program. The interim rule can be found at 76 Fed. Reg. 67801. The waiver was granted pursuant to the agency’s authority under the Affordable Care Act, specifically, 42 U.S.C. § 1899(f).

You can read our prior blog postings on the ACO waiver programs here.

Normally, interim final rules are only permitted to remain in effect for a maximum of three years (see 69 Fed. Reg. 78422). CMS regulations require the agency to publish a final rule within three years of a proposed or interim final rule. As the interim final rule is set to expire on November 2, 2014, the agency took advantage of the procedure that allows it to extend the life of the rule for an additional year by publishing a notice explaining the reasons why the regular timeline was not met.

Explanation for the Extension.

CMS stated that it is in the process of preparing a final rule, and allowing the interim final rule to expire would create a great deal of legal uncertainty for ACOs currently participating in the Shared Savings Program. According to CMS, this uncertainty has the potential to disrupt ongoing ACO business, plans, and operations.

Ultimately, CMS has learned through the course of its operation of the Shared Savings Program that certain modifications to the program are necessary. Although these modifications are not yet defined completely, CMS nevertheless believed the prudent course of action was to maintain the status quo during the rule making process.

Check back with us for updates on the process and any further information as the final rule is developed.

Comments?

Have you considered joining an ACO? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation. If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can visit our website at http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. http://www.TheHealthLawFirm.com The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone: (407) 331-6620.

The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.

Copyright © 1996-2014 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

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MedPAC Wants to Hold Accountable Care Organizations More Accountable

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

As the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) prepares to designate the next class of accountable care organizations (ACOs), the agency sought the advice and input of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission (MedPAC) on how to proceed.  MedPAC is an independent Congressional Agency established to advise the U.S. Congress on issues affecting Medicare.

Click here to read our previous blog on the background and purpose of ACOs.

MedPAC Suggests All Medicare Shared Savings Program ACOs Join the Two-Sided Risk Model.

In response to the request from the CMS, MedPAC reiterated its previous position that it would like to see all Medicare ACOs take on greater financial risk.  As it presently stands, some Medicare-contracted ACOs do not share in the risks associated with the ACOs patients’ healthcare costs exceeding certain target ranges.  Even though those ACOs do not bear any financial risk if the goals are not met, they nevertheless stand to benefit if they are.

MedPAC found that the one-sided risk model being used by most Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) ACOs to be insufficient to reach the goals of the MSSP.

Specifically, MedPAC wants to see all MSSP ACOs in the two-sided risk model.  That model requires the ACO to reimburse Medicare for some of the costs which exceeded the target ranges. This pressure is important to note because only 13 of the 32 Pioneer ACOs generated enough savings to Medicare to qualify for MSSP savings payments.

Understand an ACO Agreement Before You Sign.

As we see more and more physicians being approached to join or form ACOs, it is crucial to understand exactly what type of arrangement you are getting into.

Many ACO contracts we see are simply for participation as a provider in the organization.  However, some of the contracts we see require that the physician make a financial investment in the ACO or otherwise require that the physician pay a “pro rata” share of any penalty assessed by CMS.

Current ACO participation and recruiting is something akin to the gold rush of the nineteenth century.  Everyone is rushing to stake a claim in fear of being left out.  Be careful about what kind of an agreement you sign and be sure that you understand the long-term consequences of tying your practice to an as-yet unproven model. To read our previous blog on the first year pioneer ACO results, click here.

If you are approached to join an ACO, or are considering signing a participation agreement/contract with one, make sure to read the contract carefully and consult with an experienced healthcare attorney.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation.  If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of MedPAC’s position on ACOs? Have you considered joining an ACO? Why or why not? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.

First Year Pioneer ACO Results: Medicare Money Saved But Some Physicians Leave Program

Lance Leider headshotBy Lance O. Leider, J.D., The Health Law Firm

On July 16, 2013, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a press release summarizing the performance results for the first year of the Pioneer Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model. Made possible by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), the Pioneer ACO Model encourages providers and care givers to deliver more coordinated care ans services for Medicare beneficiaries. ACOs, including the Pioneer ACO Model and the Medicare Shared Savings Program, are one way CMS is providing options to providers looking to better coordinate care for patients and use health care dollars more wisely, according to CMS.

Click here to read the entire press release from CMS.

Pioneer Model ACOs Increase Quality.

The press release states that all thirty-two (32) participants in the program successfully increased the quality of care received by their beneficiaries.  Consequently, each participant received incentive payments for achieving these results.

Some examples of the quality improvements were lower readmission rates and better blood pressure and cholesterol control among diabetic patients.  Some examples of the quality control measures that were implemented were:

–    dispatch of hospital trained nurses to beneficiaries’ homes for management of prescriptions, blood-sugar readings, healthy eating education and delivery and set up of durable medical equipment (DME); and

–    care coordination by trained healthcare professionals at no cost.

Pioneer Model ACOs Increase Savings.

Of the thirty-two (32) Pioneer ACOs, thirteen (13) of them produced shared savings with CMS.  This means that they exceeded the cost reduction benchmarks and were eligible to receive a percentage of those savings from CMS as compensation additional to the fee-for-service payments.  In total CMS estimates that approximately $87.6 million in Medicare expenditures was saved.

However, two (2) of the Pioneer ACO participants had shared losses.  This means that their per beneficiary fee-for-service expenditures exceeded the stated goal and they were required to share in the losses suffered by CMS.  These losses were approximately $4 million.

Some Pioneer Model ACOs Withdrawal From Program.

Of the Pioneer ACOs that did not produce shared savings, seven (7) of them have decided to leave the Pioneer program and enroll in the standard Medicare Shared Savings Program.  This program offers lower risks and lower rewards and does not have the option of moving to a capitated payment model after the first two (2) successful years.

The two (2) Pioneer ACOs that experienced shared losses with CMS have signaled their intent to withdraw from the ACO model entirely.

The First-Year Pioneer ACO Lesson: Win Some, Lose Some.

While not a total success, the Pioneer ACO program did manage to produce net savings to Medicare and improve the quality of care provided to its beneficiaries.  Many news outlets who oppose PPACA are citing this as a failure of the program and yet more bad news for President Obama’s healthcare overhaul.  However, many other sources share CMS’s somewhat rosier view of the program.  These sources state that while the program may not have been as big a success as hoped, it was only the first year in operation and is nowhere near a failure.

According to an article in American Medical News, the American Medical Association (AMA) supports ACO programs that have allowed physicians practicing in groups of various sizes to participate in new care models. The AMA states that the first-year pioneer results are encouraging, and have the potential to improve quality and decease costs. To read the entire article from American Medical News, click here.

Data should be released on the standard Shared Savings Program ACOs in the near future.

Contact Health Law Attorneys Experienced With Healthcare Business Practices.

The Health Law Firm routinely represents physician groups and practices with issues involving establishing, licensing, selling, merging, and intergroup affiliation.  If you are considering establishing an ACO or have been approached to become a participant in one, you can contact The Health Law Firm at (407) 331-6620 or (850) 439-1001 or you can visit our website at www.TheHealthLawFirm.com.

Comments?

What do you think of the performance results summery for the first year Pioneer ACO Model? What do you think about the number of groups dropping out? Please leave any thoughtful comments below.

Sources:

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations Succeed in Improving Care, Lowering Costs.” CMS.gov. (July 16, 2013). From: http://cms.gov/Newsroom/MediaReleaseDatabase/Press-Releases/2013-Press-Releases-Items/2013-07-16.html

Fiegl, Charles. “Medicare pioneer ACOs save money but lose physicians.” American Medical News. (July 29, 2013). From: http://www.amednews.com/article/20130729/government/130729933/1/?utm_source=nwltr&utm_medium=heds-htm&utm_campaign=20130729

About the Author: Lance O. Leider is an attorney with The Health Law Firm, which has a national practice. Its main office is in the Orlando, Florida, area. www.TheHealthLawFirm.com  The Health Law Firm, 1101 Douglas Avenue, Altamonte Springs, Florida 32714, Phone:  (407) 331-6620.

“The Health Law Firm” is a registered fictitious business name of George F. Indest III, P.A. – The Health Law Firm, a Florida professional service corporation, since 1999.
Copyright © 1996-2012 The Health Law Firm. All rights reserved.