CMS recently released the proposed rule that will regulate PPACA’s Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). The MSSP relies on the accountable care organization (ACO) model in order to generate and distribute savings. HealthReformWatch.com has discussed the general framework for ACOs before . Clocking in at nearly 500 hundred pages, the proposed rule helps to flesh out what was largely a philosophical exercise in cooperative health care delivery. Below are what I believe to be a number of key pieces of the proposed rule.
There will be two ACO models. The choice between models appears to be largely geared towards minimizing ACO risk while hospitals and providers are first bringing their ACOs online.
Not surprisingly, ACO hopefuls must form an agreement with CMS directly. ACOs under the MSSP must last for not less than three years after the application has been approved. (425.18). The performance period will be 12 months. The ACO must have at least 5,000 beneficiaries, and must include a sufficient number of primary care physicians to treat the ACO beneficiary population.
ACOs must obtain reinsurance, place funds in escrow, obtain surety bonds, establish a line of credit that Medicare can draw upon, or establish other repayment mechanisms that will provide for payment of losses to Medicare under the 2-sided model.
ACO must be constituted as a legal entity for the purposes of, among other things, receiving and distributing shared savings, repaying shared losses, and establishing reporting.
The ACO must establish and maintain a governing body to fulfill and execute ACO functions. It must be comprised of ACO participants or their representatives, as well as representatives of the Medicare beneficiaries in the ACO. At least 75 percent of the governing body must consist of ACO participants. ACO participants and ACO providers/suppliers must have a meaningful commitment to the ACO’s clinical integration, which may consist of a financial investment or a meaningful human investment in the ongoing operations of the ACO, such that potential loss or recoupment is likely to motivate that participant.
ACOs will be required to have a physician-directed committee tasked with overseeing a quality assurance and improvement program. This program must establish internal performance standards for quality of care, cost-effectiveness, and process and outcome improvements. The committee must hold the ACO providers/suppliers accountable for meeting these standards. The program must have processes and procedures to identify and correct poor compliance.
The ACOs are required to implement evidence-based medicine or clinical practice guidelines and processes in an effort to improve individual care, better the health of the population, and lower the growth of health care expenditures. The guidelines and processes must cover diagnoses with “significant potential” for the ACO to achieve quality and cost improvements, taking into account the circumstances of individual beneficiaries. All ACO participants and suppliers/providers must agree to abide by these guidelines and processes, and must be evaluated for their compliance. Remedial actions must be a possibility for non-compliance, and ACOs must have policies and procedure for ACO expulsion of participants and/or providers/suppliers.
425.5(d)(9)(viii) & 425.11
ACOs are required to have an infrastructure, such as information technology (which may include EHR technology that is certified for the meaningful use program) that enables the ACO to collect and evaluate data and provide feedback to ACO participants and ACO providers/suppliers across the entire ACO, including providing information to influence care at the point of care.
By the second year, at least 50 percent of an ACO’s primary care physicians must be meaningful users of EHR technology. Failure to fulfill this obligation could lead to ACO termination.
The general approach of the CMS is to assign beneficiaries to ACOs based on the utilization of primary care. 425.6(a). Beneficiaries are assigned based on their utilization of primary care services by a primary care physician who is an ACO provider/supplier during the performance year for which shared savings are to be determined. Assignment to an ACO in no way diminishes or restricts the right of the beneficiaries assigned to an ACO to exercise free choice in determining where to receive health benefits.
More specifically, beneficiaries will be assigned to the ACO where they receive a plurality of their primary care services. 425.6(b). CMS will establish a fixed benchmark which will be adjusted for overall growth and beneficiary characteristics, including health status. This benchmark will be updated annually based on the absolute growth in national per capita expenditures for Medicare Part A and Part B services under the original Medicare fee-for-service program.
CMS will use the methodologies it applies to analyzing ACO performance in an effort to prevent ACOs from “cherry picking” the healthiest individuals for their ACOs. CMS reserves the right to terminate an ACO for avoiding at-risk beneficiaries. Other less drastic options are also at the option of CMS.
CMS will be monitoring ACO compliance by analyzing the data provided by the ACO to determine its eligibility for, and its percentage of, shared savings. If the ACO fails to meet CMS performance standards it will be given a warning. An ACO given a warning will be reevaluated the following year. If the ACO is still failing to meet the performance measures CMS may terminate the ACO immediately or take alternative actions as specified in the rule. If the ACO does not submit the requested quality performance data, CMS will request submission of the data, allow for a correction of the data, or allow for a written explanation of why the data was not provided. ACOs that continue to fail in providing the requested data will be terminated immediately.
CMS will provide ACOs with monthly claims data for potentially assigned beneficiaries. CMS makes clear that HIPAA protections will apply to this data sharing. More notably, ACOs must provide the beneficiary with the opportunity to opt-out of sharing his or her personal health information for the purposes of ACO activities.
ACOs will be required to publicly report a variety of information, including quality performance standard scores, shared savings or losses information, the total amount of shared savings distributed among ACO participants, and the total proportion that was used to support quality performance.
:1. [: Medicare Program: Medicare Shared Savings Program: Accountable Care Organizations on ACOs . For those wanting the rule without the preamble, I have uploaded it here. It is only 59 pages. 2. : Medicare Program; Waiver Designs in Connection with the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Innovation Center . 3. [Proposed Statement]: Proposed Statement of Antitrust Enforcement Policy Regarding Accountable Care Organizations Participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program . 4. [Notice]: Notice 2011-20: solicitation for comments regarding what guidance, if any, is needed for tax-exempt organizations participating in Medicare Shared Savings Programs through an ACO .