Stephen Nuckolls: ACOs Remain the Government's Best Option to Control Healthcare Costs

The proposed changes to the Medicare Shared Savings Program may put a damper on the accountable care organization (ACO) movement, but ACOs remain the government’s best option for controlling healthcare costs, said Stephen Nuckolls, CEO of Coastal Carolina Quality Care.

What do you think the impact of the proposed MSSP changes will be on new ACOs looking to join?
I’m afraid from talking with many ACOs here at the conference [NAACOS fall 2018 meeting] and just looking at some of the responses that I’ve seen written, I think it is going to put a damper on the number that will be applying. I was speaking with one large well-known health system last night that had wished to enter the MSSP starting January 1. They’re here at the conference, but they’re not sure how their administrative department is going to take the 25% upside. While they are excited and optimistic about becoming an ACO, they’re not sure that the administration of the health system will allow that with the increased risk and also the lower rewards.

Do you think the proposed changes could hamper the ACO movement? Do you see more private payers stepping in to set up contracts?
I still think that the government’s best option for controlling healthcare costs is the accountable care organization and the standard fee-for-service Medicare. And I think that while there may be fewer ACOs in the program, and maybe a smaller number entering, I still think there will be a core that will continue to be there and will continue to be successful. And my hope would be that we would grow the movement, but that may take a longer period of time before we’re able to accomplish that.
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