University of Michigan Pioneer ACO Update

First-year results show Medicare cost savings; transition to a different ACO program planned

Continuing its leadership in the population health movement, the University of Michigan Medical School’s Faculty Group Practice today reported the latest results from its Pioneer accountable care organization, or ACO, and announced plans for a change intended to bring even more success.

In conjunction with today’s release by the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of first-year results from all 32 Pioneer ACOs, the U-M Pioneer ACO reports that it achieved cost savings of 0.3 percent for the Medicare system in calendar 2012.

The ACO includes more than 2,000 physicians from the U-M FGP, and the IHA physician group, who together provide primary and specialty care to more than 23,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Also today, CMS and the U-M Pioneer ACO announced that the ACO’s physician groups will seek to move to a different framework for Medicare ACOs: the Medicare Shared Savings Program or MSSP.

If all approvals are received, the U-M Pioneer ACO participants intend to take part in an MSSP ACO already in place.
It’s POM ACO, an effort launched earlier this year by the U-M FGP and eight other physician groups around Michigan under the MSSP framework. POM ACO includes 1,800 physicians and cares for more than 81,000 Medicare beneficiaries.

Pending approval by the POM ACO board and CMS, the physicians currently in the U-M Pioneer ACO will seek to join POM ACO. The transition would be seamless for the Medicare beneficiaries whose doctors take part in either ACO.

The quality and cost of care are measured in a somewhat different way under an MSSP ACO, but the goal remains the same: a “triple aim” of containing the growth in health care costs for Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries, while improving the health of individual patients and populations of patients.

“We remain firmly committed to the concept of improving health care and containing cost growth via the population health model that drives all ACOs,” says David Spahlinger, M.D., executive director of the U-M FGP.

“Our leadership in the Medicare ACO movement dates back to our participation in the forerunner of ACOs, the Physician Group Practice Medicare demonstration project that launched in 2005,” he explains. “This intended change from Pioneer to MSSP will allow us to continue that participation while simplifying our administrative structures and enhancing our partnerships with other physician groups.”

Spahlinger praises all those involved in helping the U-M Pioneer ACO succeed, including medical director Timothy Peterson, M.D., and the staff of the Medical School’s Population Health office. Their expertise, combined with that of the POM ACO leaders, should enable continued success, he says.

The Pioneer ACO effort is a demonstration project that grew directly out of the prior PGP demonstration project. As the ACO model continues to show its promise, the MSSP framework has emerged as a popular and effective way to encourage better care and lower costs through coordination among physicians, hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, and other types of care.

The MSSP effort was launched under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, the federal health care reform law.

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