CMS sets application deadline for new ACO program 2 months after rule

CMS set its application deadline for its overhauled Medicare Shared Savings Program for Feb. 19, two months after it published a 267-page rule on the ACO program.

Four things to know:

1. CMS issued a final rule Dec. 21 that makes sweeping changes to MSSP, including overhauling the way ACOs share in risks and rewards. The redesigned program, "Pathways to Success," offers ACOs two participation options: basic and enhanced. It also expands ACO participation agreements from three years to five years.

2. The National Association of ACOs, a nonprofit organization representing more than 330 ACOs, said the Feb. 19 deadline applies to new ACOs, as well as ACOs whose agreements ended Dec. 31 and ACOs who want to end their current agreement and begin under the new Pathways to Success structure. ACOs in three-year agreements that expire at the end of 2019 or 2020 can complete those contracts before shifting to the Pathways structure.

3. Given the two-month window between the ACO program's overhaul and the application deadline, NAACOS urged CMS to give ACOs until March to apply for the program.

4. "Setting an application deadline two months after publishing the final rule does not give ACOs that have expiring agreements the necessary time to vet the decision internally or the time to process the many elements of the application," Jennifer Moore, NAACOS board member and COO at MaineHealth ACO in Portland, Maine, said in an emailed news release. "Given the significant changes, ACOs need to engage actuaries to understand how we would fare in downside risk. Such an analysis takes time. Without that time, we would have to enter an upside track out of the gate."

For more information on CMS' Pathways to Success program, click here.

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