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CMS finalizes changes to Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) and ACO overhaul

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Pathways to Success has been billed as an “overhaul of Medicare’s ACO program” by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). Seema Verma, Administrator for CMS, announced the new program for Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as well as changes to the organization’s shared savings program in December 2018.

Seema noted that “the American healthcare system is on an unsustainable trajectory, with one in five dollars spent in our economy projected to be spent on healthcare by 2026,” so healthcare providers and CMS have a responsibility to “to ensure that patients are getting value for the care that is provided.” Pathways to Success introduces a new structure for the ACO Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) that emphasizes value-based care.

The start date for Pathways to Success will be July 1, 2019. Replacing previous MSSP tracks, the new program offers participation in either the BASIC or the ENHANCED track:

(1) BASIC track, which would allow eligible ACOs to begin under a one-sided model and incrementally phase-in higher levels of risk that, at the highest level, would qualify as an Advanced Alternative Payment Model (APM) under the Quality Payment Program

(2) ENHANCED track, based on the program’s existing Track 3, which provides additional tools and flexibility for ACOs that take on the highest level of risk and potential reward. Appendix A summarizes the characteristics of the participation options.

Seema notes that CMS is “setting the shared savings rate at 40 percent for ACOs not assuming risk for healthcare costs and 50 percent for ACOs at BASIC track levels of risk, to strengthen the on-ramp to the program while rewarding ACOs that take on greater risk with higher shared savings rates.”

ACOs will enter into 5-year agreements to participate in Pathways to Success, with 12-month performance years based on calendar years. Seema emphasized that part of the change is to reduce the amount of time an ACO can participate in the shared savings program “without taking accountability for healthcare spending.”