ACOs are leaving $886M in net payments on the table, analysis finds

ACOs in Track 1 of the Medicare Shared Savings Program are losing out on millions of dollars in additional net payments from CMS by not taking on more risk and missing out on the Quality Payment Program's 5 percent lump sum bonus payment for ACOs in Track 2 and 3, according to an analysis from Avalere.

The analysis simulates how much Track 1 ACOs would earn if they were enrolled in Track 2 — based on 2015 performance — and the QPP was in place. Track 1 ACOs do not bear downside financial risk, and therefore share in a smaller portion of savings than their Track 2 and 3 counterparts. However, if these ACOs had taken on more risk in 2015, they would have earned $178 million more in shared savings, according to the analysis. And if the Track 1 ACOs took on downside risk, they would qualify as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model under the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act's QPP. These models have the opportunity to earn a bonus up to 5 percent on Medicare Part B expenditures — and based on 2015 performance, those ACOs would be leaving $1.1 billion in AAPM bonus payments on the table by not bearing the downside risk necessary to qualify, according to the report.

"The CMS' new value-based payment incentives really tip the scales for doctors to assume greater financial risk," Josh Seidman, PhD, senior vice president at Avalere, said in a statement. "For those physicians who were dipping their toes in the water with low-risk ACO models, the incentives now make it advantageous for a majority of them to move more aggressively into greater accountability for population health."

Of course, some of the ACOs would have also generated net losses. The analysis indicates some of the ACOs in the simulation would have had to pay back CMS for spending above the benchmark. These shared losses would have totaled $437 million. Benefits and losses taken together, if all Track 1 ACOs joined Track 2 of the MSSP and performed as well as they did in 2015, they would earn additional net payments of $886 million, according to the analysis.

However, the majority of ACOs would still benefit by joining Track 2. Avalere found 79 percent, or 307 of the Track 1 ACOs, would have financially benefitted, compared to 21 percent, or 82, that would not.

This year 486 ACOs are participating in Track 1, accounting for most of the MSSP program. Track 2 counts just six participants and Track 3 has 36 ACOs.


More articles on accountable care:

91% of Medicare ACOs will not share physician incentive information
National Business Group on Health unveils 2 employer ACO resources
ACOs continue to grow in 2017

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