Hospitals

Cleveland Clinic declines to participate in “Pioneer” ACO program

Cleveland Clinic is one of several prominent national health systems to decline participation in an early version of a key federal health reform program that was hyped as a transformation of how healthcare is delivered in the U.S. Cleveland Clinic — along with Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System and Intermountain Healthcare — declined to apply […]

Cleveland Clinic is one of several prominent national health systems to decline participation in an early version of a key federal health reform program that was hyped as a transformation of how healthcare is delivered in the U.S.

Cleveland Clinic — along with Mayo Clinic, Geisinger Health System and Intermountain Healthcare — declined to apply for inclusion in the “Pioneer” accountable care organization (ACO) program, despite the fact that the program was designed for health systems exactly like the Clinic, Kaiser Health News reported.

The news comes as a blow to the Obama administration, which has touted ACOs as a key part of last year’s controversial federal health reform package.  ACOs are a new type of healthcare model designed to reduce costs and improve care coordination for Medicare patients.

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Essentially, an ACO is a network of doctors and (one or potentially more) hospitals that manage the care of a population of Medicare patients. ACOs that save Medicare money would be eligible to share in some of that savings themselves.

The Pioneer program was designed as a fast-track toward establishing an ACO and was intended for health systems that were ahead of their peers in integrating their patient-care operations. The federal government hoped to incentivize participation in the program by offering health systems the opportunity to pocket more of the expected savings in exchange for taking on greater financial risk.

While Cleveland Clinic’s lack of participation in the Pioneer program can be viewed as a setback for the Obama administration’s reform efforts, it’s not exactly a surprise.

In June, Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove blasted proposed ACO rules, saying they create “significant barriers” that would discourage hospitals from adopting the new model of care.

A Cleveland Clinic spokeswoman didn’t immediately respond to an email.