As if things weren’t dramatic enough already in U.S. healthcare, a “battle of the narratives” has developed between senior officials at the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), especially CMS Administrator Seema Verma, and the leaders of NAACOS— the National Association of ACOs—which have been locked in an ongoing war of words with each other for many months now.
There are a lot of moving parts to this, but two main elements: the release Tuesday of new data from CMS on the performance of the accountable care organizations participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program and the Next Generation ACOs Program; and the release Thursday of a new NAACOS membership survey. The two phenomena have been framed in ways so contrasted to one another that they virtually sit at opposite ends of a conceptual spectrum; and therein lies the interest in this moment.
Let’s begin with CMS’s data release on Monday. As we reported on that day, “On Sep. 14, Seema Verma, Administrator of the federal Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), shared 2019 performance data from the accountable care organizations (ACOs) participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP), in an article posted online in Health Affairs. In the article, ‘2019 Medicare Shared Savings Program ACO Performance: Lower Costs And Promising Results Under ‘Pathways to Success,’ Verma boasted of $1.9 billion in total net savings to Medicare during 2019, and praising the ACOs that have performed well under the Pathways to Success program requirements.”