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CMS Announces New Efforts to Strengthen ACOs

Despite the model’s mixed results in cost containment, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced a new initiative to bolster Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

The ACO Investment Model is designed to provide assistance to rural and underserved areas through loans up to $114 million allocated for up to 75 ACOs across the U.S. Both current and new ACOs applying for the second round of contracts in 2016 in the MSSP are eligible. CMS will recover the loans through an offset of an ACO’s earned shared savings.

The MSSP program has over 240 participants, while the ACO Pioneer program is down to 19 participants from the original total of 32. ACOs continue to receive criticism for not significantly decreasing spending, as the model was intended.  

Opponents say that ACOs create financial disincentives to hospitalize patients or refer for advanced care, leading to higher costs and poor outcomes for sick patients.