An ACO is provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act scheduled to begin in January 2012. It is a network of physicians and hospitals that would share the responsibility and the financial incentives for providing high-quality care to a minimum of 5000 Medicare beneficiaries for at least 3 years. Touted as a way to keep costs down, an ACO ideally would bring together many of the component parts of health care (primary care physicians, specialists, long-term care, home care, hospitals, etc) to seamlessly share information, focusing on prevention and management of those with chronic diseases. Providers essentially would get paid more for keeping their patients healthy. One major difference between an ACO and an HMO (health maintenance organization) is that patients do not have to stay in the network.
There are strong opinions regarding the pros and cons of ACOs, although many people are just trying to determine what they really are and how it will affect them personally, as well as their patients.
What are your opinions? Do you have questions?