About Accountable Care Organizations (ACO)
Medicare ACOs are comprised of groups of doctors, hospitals, and other suppliers who have come together voluntarily to provide coordinated, high-quality care at lower costs to their Original Medicare patients. ACOs are patient-centered organizations where the patient and providers are true partners in care decisions. Aligned beneficiaries will see no reduction in their Medicare benefits and will keep their freedom to see any Medicare-enrolled provider or supplier. Provider and supplier participation in ACOs is also voluntary. When an ACO succeeds in both delivering high-quality coordinated care and spending health care dollars more wisely, it will share in the savings it achieves for the Medicare program.
The goal of care coordination is to ensure that patients, especially those with chronic conditions, get the right care at the right time while avoiding medical errors and unnecessary duplication of services. Any patient who has multiple doctors has experienced the frustration of fragmented and disconnected care: lost or unavailable medical charts; duplicated medical procedures and tests; difficulty scheduling appointments; or having to share the same information repeatedly with different doctors. ACOs are designed to help lift this burden from patients, while improving the partnership between patients and their health care providers in making health care decisions. Medicare beneficiaries will have better control over their health care, and providers will have better information about their patients’ medical history and better relationships with their patients’ other health care providers. For health care providers, ACOs hold the promise of realigning the practice of medicine with the ideals of the profession—keeping the focus on patient health and the most appropriate care.
Medicare beneficiaries whose doctors participate in an ACO will still have freedom of choice among Medicare-enrolled providers and suppliers and can still choose to see health care providers outside of the ACO. Patients choosing to receive care from providers and suppliers participating in ACOs will also have access to information about how well their doctors, hospitals, or other caregivers are meeting quality standards.
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