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Pioneer ACO Model Offers Participants Flexibility

Margaret Dick Tocknell, for HealthLeaders Media, December 20, 2011

The Department of Health & Human Services announced on Monday that 32 healthcare systems have been selected to participate as Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations. The initiative will encourage primary care doctors, specialists, hospitals, and other caregivers to provide better, more coordinated care for people with Medicare and could save up to $1.1 billion over five years.

The Pioneer ACO is an accelerated version of the original shared savings ACO program. It was developed after organizations experienced with coordinating patient care and managing risk complained that the ACO program was too stringent in its design. "We weren't happy with the original ACO program because it didn't allow for any flexibility," John Hensing, MD, executive vice president and chief medical officer for Banner Health Network, told HealthLeaders Media. "With the Pioneer program, we were able to negotiate the exit strategy and risk-sharing terms we needed to make the program work for us. Now we're excited to play a role in what we think is a transformative time in healthcare."

Organizations named to the Pioneer ACO program come from 18 states and include large independent practice associations, integrated delivery systems, and physician-based and hospital-based teams that represent 860,000 Medicare beneficiaries. More than 160 letters of intent were received for the program, which ultimately attracted 80 applicants.

In addition to Phoenix-based Banner Health, other Pioneer ACOs include Atrius Health, an independent physician group with offices in central and eastern Massachusetts; Brown & Toland Physicians in the San Francisco area; Franciscan Health System in Indianapolis; and Physician Health Partners in the Denver area.

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