As the concept has unfolded from an article in Health Affairs in December 2006, we have expressed skepticism about the implementation of Medicare Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). The proposed regulations were met with resounding criticism throughout the industry from almost all sides; and the supporting statements, by the Federal Trade Commission on antitrust and the OIG on fraud and abuse, derided both as too restrictive and too lenient.  Many forget that this program enacted as part of health reform was never intended to be applicable to most provider groups.  At its best, CMS has estimated that 75-100 provider entities will be approved as ACOs.

We firmly believe this is a considerable over-estimate even if there is a complete revamping of the regulations. We are not alone.  In “Onerous Regs Put ACOs on the Ropes” Alice and Jeff Goldsmith are the principal interviewees explaining why of the 5800 hospitals and more than 780,000 physicians in America, very few will find themselves in Medicare ACOs. That said, the pressures to be accountable for care and what that will require are an entirely different proposition. In “ACOs vs. Accountable Care: Is There A Difference?”, Alice further describes the problems with the Medicare approach, but elucidates the essential activities that are necessary to be accountable for care; and they are activities that providers should be engaged in even if no one pays them differently.