Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Skepticism about accountable care organizations

Here is a JAMA Viewpoint piece expressing a negative opinion about ACOs. (A companion article in the same issue was favorable). Key points:

The authors point out that any cost savings attributable to the ACOs appear to be nominal. Moreover they tend to be offset by the bonuses paid out to the participants. These bonuses cannot be considered optional because they are inherent to the core notion of the ACO: that “quality” will be rewarded.

The model creates incentives to integrate services. Thus smaller hospitals close or are merged, resulting in monopolies among health care delivery systems. This reduces competition and tends to drive costs up, not down.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Accountable care organizations: how are they working?

The authors of this JAMA Viewpoint article say the model has been a success, but the arguments are unconvincing. Here are some caveats:

The experiment is in its infancy.

Overall the results are mixed.

Cost savings have been modest and in some cases are diminishing and may prove to be transient. That's what we saw in the managed care experiment of a couple of decades ago.

Statements about quality improvement are suspect because real quality cannot be measured. Outcome data are very soft.