John Commins, March 31, 2011

The Department of Health and Human Services Thursday released for public comment the long-awaited proposed rules governing accountable care organizations.

HHS said it will hold open-door forums and listening sessions during the comment period to help the public understand what the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services is proposing to do with the voluntary ACOs, and to ensure that the public understands how to participate in the comment process.

“The Affordable Care Act is putting patients and their doctors in control of their healthcare,” said HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius in a statement. “For too long, it has been too difficult for healthcare providers to work together to coordinate and improve the care their patients receive. That has real consequences: patients have gaps in their care, receive duplicative care, or are at increased risk of suffering from medical mistakes. Accountable care organizations will improve coordination and communication among doctors and hospitals, improve the quality of the care their patients receive, and help lower costs.”

The Medicare Shared Savings Program initiated under the Affordable Care Act will reward ACOs that lower healthcare costs while meeting performance standards on quality of care and patients’ need. The Obama Administration has said that by linking payments to outcomes ACOs could save Medicare as much as $960 million over three years.

John Commins

John Commins is a senior editor at HealthLeaders Media.

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