CMS director says doctors want ACOs

By Diana Manos
01:55 PM

Jonathan Blum, deputy administrator and director for the Center of Medicare at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, says doctors see the inefficiencies in healthcare today and are eager to try accountable care organizations.

Blum’s comments came during a Tuesday gathering with various healthcare stakeholders in Indianapolis to discuss the proposed ACO regulation issued by CMS last March.

The Tuesday briefing was hosted by the Indiana Health Information Exchange (IHIE) and the Employer’s Forum of Indiana (EFI).

Blum said some of the recent media attention on the government’s attempts to establish ACOs has taken a negative spin. However, among the 1200 comments CMS received on the proposal, many doctors commented favorably.

Most of the comments on the proposed regulation included recommendations on ways to make the upcoming federal ACO program better, he said. He was pleased so many organizations were interested enough in ACOs to send their input to federal regulators.

As mandated under the Affordable Care Act, the ACO program will be voluntary, with providers receiving incentives for lowering the costs of healthcare while increasing the quality of care. Blum said CMS would issue the final ACO regulation this fall.

Blum did acknowledge that not all the comments CMS received were positive. CMS “is getting some pushback” on the program from some stakeholders who are calling the proposal “too aggressive” and “too fast with care redesign.”

[See also: ACO program is asking too much, says expert.]

“We are sensitive to that,” he said. “Yet at the same time we want better care for beneficiaries at lower costs, as soon as possible. The current incentives aren’t working for anybody.” This is not just a notion promoted by public payers, he added – private payers also agree.

Blum expressed confidence that providers will participate in ACOs because “there is a much stronger recognition than in the past” that a change must be made. In addition, he said the advance of healthcare IT infrastructure is also laying a good foundation for ACOs.

[See also: Is it true ACOs aren't going away?]

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