Transitioning the U.S. healthcare system from one driven by volume to one driven by value could take another 15 to 20 years, experts say. For the independent physician, there is ample opportunity to consider a leadership role in the evolution by joining an accountable care organization (ACO).
Federally regulated, fee-for-service Medicare ACOs are setting the standards for value-based payment structures nationwide, and participation remains voluntary. In Medicaid programs, 12 states are actively pursuing ACOs, with another 10 states pursuing the option. In the commercial market, all the large payers have their own versions of accountable care with a variety of benchmarks and reimbursement details. About half of all ACO contracts cover commercial populations, according to consulting firm Leavitt Partners.
David Muhlestein, PhD, JD, chief research officer for the consulting firm Leavitt Partners, says there are approximately 1,000 ACOs in existence, with the majority organized around partnerships between hospitals and physician groups.