UnitedHealthCare Will Add Additional 250 ACOs in 2015

UnitedHealthcare announced that it will nearly double the amount of accountable care organizations it is contracted with in 2015 as it expects to add another 250 ACOs.

UnitedHealthcare announced that it will nearly double the amount of accountable care organizations (ACOs) it is contracted with in 2015 as it expects to add another 250 ACOs.

A total of 11 million plan participants are now enrolled in UnitedHealthcare’s value-based payments through its more than 520 currently active ACOs.

“Working with care providers to ensure they have the right support and incentives will help connect the people we serve to the most effective care, place a greater focus on the quality of their care, and compensate providers for improving patients’ health,” Dan Rosenthal, president of UnitedHealthcare Networks, said in a statement.

According to UnitedHealthcare, in the last 3 years, its total payments to physicians and hospitals that are tied to value-based arrangements nearly tripled to $36 billion. The company estimates that payments will reach $43 billion this year—a 20% increase—and $65 million by the end of 2018.

Among the existing ACOs, UnitedHealthcare has seen a 21% increase in primary care visits from Medicaid members and a 14% decrease in 30-day hospital readmissions. Plus, hospital admissions and emergency room admissions among individual and employer-sponsored plan participants are down 11% and 8%, respectively.

The value-based care UnitedHealthcare is offering through its ACOs takes many forms, such as performance-based contracting and bundled payments for treating specific illnesses, and primary care bonuses and fully integrated population health.

UnitedHealthcare’s announcement to nearly double its ACO contracts comes just weeks after HHS announced that it would tie 50% of traditional Medicare payments to quality or value through models like ACOs or bundled payments by the end of 2018. HHS estimated that existing ACO programs have saved Medicare $417 million and only 20% of payments are currently made through such alternative payment models.

“Deeper, more integrated relationships with health plans like UnitedHealthcare are making a tangible impact on patients’ health,” said Simeon Schwartz, MD, president and chief executive officer of WESTMED.