OMG ACO!

Puzzle with stethoscope

I like to think of myself as a quick learner. I mean I did well in college and that’s got to mean something right? But with all the changes going on in health care, I’m second guessing myself.

Every day working in health care is exciting. It’s a little bit of health care reform here, population health management there and excellent patient care everywhere. And then we top it off with my favorite, accountable care organization (ACO). And that’s where I’m stuck. What does ACO really mean?

The name alone suggests a health care organization held accountable for the care it provides. But that’s just my assumption – and you know what they say when you assume.

So, to get the ACO facts, I turned to Banner Health Network Chief Executive Officer Chuck Lehn. He provided me with these three key points to help me understand an ACO:

  1. An ACO is part of the Affordable Care Act. It’s a group of health care providers who coordinate the care of Medicare patients. Medicare patients are Americans 65 years and older who participate in the health insurance program administered by the U.S. government.  Non-government health care purchasers such as health insurance plans and employers are also using ACO models to improve care for their members and employees.
  2. An ACO, like Banner Health Network, has an agreement with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to be responsible for the quality, cost and overall health of Medicare patients. Only 32 organizations, including Banner Health Network, were originally selected by CMS to participate in this new model of care. Banner Health Network also has ACO arrangements with health plans such as Aetna, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Cigna, United Healthcare and others.
  3. ACOs, work with a team of health care providers to coordinate patient care. The goal is to prevent illness, injury and hospitalizations when possible by addressing health care needs before they reach a point of crisis. Reduced costs and a great patient experience are also goals. At this time, this program is available to Medicare patients and members of many health plans whose physicians participate in Banner Health Network.

So, there we have it – the basic understanding of an ACO. It makes me proud to know that at Banner, we have innovative ways to provide a high-quality, highly coordinate patient experience!

And, now thanks to Chuck, I’m no longer sitting in meetings thinking to myself “OMG ACO.” Next up, I think I’ll tackle a better understanding the Affordable Care Act – but I have a feeling I won’t be able to sum that up in three key points.

Visit www.BannerHealthNetwork.com for more information.

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