CMS ACO Investment Model Eases Criteria to Better Support Rural Areas

Two new changes to CMS' ACO Investment Model will help practices in rural areas gain more access to the benefits of accountable care organizations.

Two new changes to CMS’ ACO Investment Model will help practices in rural areas gain more access to the benefits of accountable care organizations (ACOs).

The modifications will allow ACOs currently participating in the Medicare Shared Savings Program to apply in the next application round, and will remove the criteria that requires rural ACOs have 10,000 or fewer assigned beneficiaries for ACOs that started in the program in 2015 (or will start in 2016).

“These two changes reflect the Innovation Center’s commitment to listening to suggestions and ensuring that demonstrations are widespread, including rural providers and smaller physician groups,” Patrick Conway, MD, deputy administrator of innovation and quality and chief medical officer of CMS, wrote in a blog post.

The ACO Investment Model will provide $114 million in upfront investments to up to 75 ACOs across the country. The model was developed to encourage new ACOs to form in rural and underserved areas. Providers in rural areas have felt it is tough for them to participate in the ACO program because of the high startup costs.

“Through the CMS Innovation Center, this initiative will provide upfront and ongoing investments in infrastructure and redesigned care process to help eligible ACOs continue to provide higher quality care,” wrote Dr Conway. “This will help increase the number of beneficiaries that can benefit from lower costs and improved health care through Medicare ACOs.”