3 signs ACOs will continue to thrive

Accountable care organization bellwethers include outcomes, state activity and consumer demand

Accountable care organizations have been launching all over the country, becoming a popular approach in the shift toward value-based care. But will health insurers and the federal government continue to embrace ACOs this year? 

According to a Health Affairs blog post, the answer is yes. Since January 2013, almost 200 new public and private ACOs have been established, and ACOs now cover more than 18 million consumers. Plus, there are now ACOs in every state, with California leading the nation with 58 ACOs, followed by Florida's 55 and Texas' 44 ACOs.

To determine whether the ACO model will continue to progress this year, Health Affairs considered the following factors:

ACO results: This year, many of the first ACOs will begin to release their quality results, which other insurers and organizations could use to decide whether or not they will launch their own ACO programs. Positive achievements could motivate organizations to create an ACO, while negative results will likely discourage new ACO development or even lead to existing ACOs abandoning their current value-based contracts.

State Medicaid activity: States can encourage more ACO adoption through their state Medicaid programs. For example, states that have openly embraced the ACO model for Medicaid members, including Oregon and Utah, have some of the highest percentages of consumers covered under an ACO. And as states expand their Medicaid programs under the healthcare reform law, many could choose an ACO model, especially if they opt for the private option initiated by Arkansas, as FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

Consumer preference: Although consumers often don't know about ACO agreements because they're typically added into existing payer-provider contracts, they may become more aware in the future. Large companies, for example, could start choosing ACO-based health plans and individual consumers could favor ACO-based plans sold on exchanges as a way to save money.

To learn more:
- read the Health Affairs blog post

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