The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recently announced that Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) saved Medicare $739.4 million in 2018, up from $314 million in savings the year before. Those savings were achieved despite policies that Rooke-Ley and colleagues argue in a recent Health Affairs Blog post disadvantage ACOs relative to Medicare Advantage (MA) plans. Their analysis concludes that ACOs cut costs in Medicare while Medicare Advantage (MA) plans likely increase them. The authors recommend regulatory changes to level the competition and ensure fair treatment for both types of managed care arrangements.
Medicare should establish policies to ensure that ACOs and MA plans are treated fairly, but such policies must account for the substantial differences in the way those alternatives operate. While some discrepancies in reporting requirements and quality measures are arbitrary and should be eliminated, the payment systems for ACOs and MA plans are different because the two models become responsible for patient care through separate and distinct processes.