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Patient Population Loss At A Large Pioneer Accountable Care Organization And Implications For Refining The Program

Author: John Hsu, Mary Price, Jenna Spirt, Christine Vogeli, Richard Brand, Michael E. Chernew, Sreekanth K. Chaguturu, Namita Mohta, Eric Weil, Timothy Ferris
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There is an ongoing move toward payment models that hold providers increasingly accountable for the care of their patients. The success of these new models depends in part on the stability of patient populations. We investigated the amount of population turnover in a large Medicare Pioneer accountable care organization (ACO) in the period 2012–14. We found that substantial numbers of beneficiaries became part of or left the ACO population during that period. For example, nearly one-third of beneficiaries who entered in 2012 left before 2014. Some of this turnover reflected that of ACO physicians—that is, beneficiaries whose physicians left the ACO were more likely to leave than those whose physicians remained. Some of the turnover also reflected changes in care delivery. For example, beneficiaries who were active in a care management program were less likely to leave the ACO than similar beneficiaries who had not yet started such a program. We recommend policy changes to increase the stability of ACO beneficiary populations, such as permitting lower cost sharing for care received within an ACO and requiring all beneficiaries to identify their primary care physician before being linked to an ACO.

There is an ongoing move toward payment models that hold providers increasingly accountable for the care of their patients. The success of these new models depends in part on the stability of patient populations. We investigated the amount of population turnover in a large Medicare Pioneer accountable care organization (ACO) in the period 2012–14. We found that substantial numbers of beneficiaries became part of or left the ACO population during that period. For example, nearly one-third of beneficiaries who entered in 2012 left before 2014. Some of this turnover reflected that of ACO physicians—that is, beneficiaries whose physicians left the ACO were more likely to leave than those whose physicians remained. Some of the turnover also reflected changes in care delivery. For example, beneficiaries who were active in a care management program were less likely to leave the ACO than similar beneficiaries who had not yet started such a program. We recommend policy changes to increase the stability of ACO beneficiary populations, such as permitting lower cost sharing for care received within an ACO and requiring all beneficiaries to identify their primary care physician before being linked to an ACO.

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