According to findings reported by the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (OIG), accountable care organizations (ACOs) participating in the Shared Savings Program are learning how to achieve greater cost savings over time. The Medicare Shared Savings Program is one of the largest alternative payment models implemented by CMS to reward providers for the quality and value of their services in order to keep patients healthy and lower costs.
The OIG’s report suggests many positive outcomes of the program, including that one-third of the ACOs that reduced their spending lowered costs enough to receive a portion of the savings. CMS data on quality measures also shows that ACOs generally improved the quality of care they provided, with a rate of 82% performance improvement on the individual quality measures within the first three years of the program. ACOs also outperformed fee-for-service providers on 81% of the quality measures.
A small portion of ACOs are reported to have gone above expectations, reducing Medicare spending by an average of $673 per beneficiary, including spending reductions for high-cost services such as inpatient hospital care and skilled nursing facility care. The OIG reports that these high-performing ACOs’ frequent use of primary care services, which can lower utilization and costs for other care, and cost reductions for services such as emergency department visits, was a factor in their cost savings. These strategies are compared to other Shared Savings Program ACOs and the national average for fee‐for‐service providers, who showed an increase in per beneficiary spending for key Medicare services.
The OIG concluded that ACOs show promise in reducing Medicare spending while also improving quality. These improvements come at a critical time, as Medicare spending is predicted to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2027. A large portion of Medicare spending has been attributed to overbilling, with the Medicare program losing more money to this error than any other program government-wide.