On March 10, 2015, CMS announced the Next Generation Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Model, its latest Affordable Care Act (ACA) innovation initiative intended to promote Medicare quality improvement and care coordination. The Next Generation ACO Model differs from the existing Medicare Shared Savings Program and Pioneer ACO models in several ways. For instance, the Next Generation ACO Model:

  • Provides higher levels of risk and reward, using more stable, predictable benchmarking methods that reward both attainment and improvement in cost containment and that move away from comparisons to an ACO’s historical expenditures;
  • Offers a selection of payment mechanisms to shift from fee-for-service (FFS) reimbursement to capitation; and
  • Includes “benefit enhancement” tools to improve engagement with beneficiaries, including (1) greater access to home visits, telehealth services, and skilled nursing facilities; (2) opportunities to receive a reward payment for receiving care from the ACO; (3) a process to allow beneficiaries to confirm their care relationship with ACO providers; and (4) CMS-ACO collaboration to improve communication with beneficiaries about the potential benefits of ACOs.

CMS plans two rounds of applications for the Next Generation ACO Model in 2015 and 2016, with participation expected to last up to five years. Letters of Intent for the 2015 cycle are due May 1, 2015, and applications are due June 1, 2015.  CMS plans an “Open Door Forum” call to discuss the new model on March 17, 2015.