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CMS Innovation Center launches 3 ACO initiatives

Image from is launching three new initiatives relating to Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) that have nothing to do with the ACO proposed rule, but come instead from the agency's new Innovation Center. Remember: The Innovation Center was established by the health reform law as a testing ground for new Medicare payment models aimed at curbing the unsustainable cost of the nation's priciest entitlement program.

While CMS will eventually release a final version of its ACO rule, based on public feedback, the three initiatives announced today will be overseen by the Innovation Center and will not be affected by whatever changes are made to the ACO final rule. Here's a brief rundown of the initiatives:

  • Pioneer ACO Model. This is basically a faster path for "mature ACOs that have already begun coordinating care for patients," CMS says. "Advanced organizations" with ACO experience would be the targets here, and the Pioneer ACO model is estimated to save Medicare up to $430 million over three years "by better managing care for beneficiaries and eliminating duplication," CMS says. Pioneer ACOs get higher shares of savings, but face higher risk-sharing as well.
  • Advance Payment ACO Initiative. This idea would allow certain ACOs, presumably selected by CMS, to access part of their shared savings up front in order to offset the infrastructure and staff costs of creating an ACO. The Innovation Center wants to hear from the public on whether this initiative makes sense. Comments must be submitted to by June 17th, 2011.
  • Accelerated Development Learning Sessions. These will be a series of four educational meetings provided by CMS to help providers learn about the steps necessary to become an ACO that actually saves money and shares the savings. The four meetings will abll be in 2011, though more may be provided in the future. There's no details so far on whether these will be live, in-person events, interactive webinars or simply conference calls. "These convenient and free sessions will help providers learn what steps they can take to improve care delivery and how to develop an action plan for moving toward better-coordinated care," CMS says. The first meeting will be in June; you can register by visiting

TIP: You can check out all the projects being tested by the CMS Innovation Center by visiting its website at

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