Friday, October 7, 2011

Nearly 30% Of Employers Are Interested In Exploring ACOs

Nearly 30% of employers are interested or very interested in exploring Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) as a way to continue offering employer-sponsored benefits, while reducing costs and improving quality of care, according to recent research from consultants Aon Hewitt and Polakoff Boland. An ACO is the organizational mechanism adopted by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to implement the Shared Savings Program established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Aon Hewitt noted that ACOs also have come to represent a broader value-based approach of delivering care, where providers assume more financial risk, along with the opportunity of more financial reward for delivering better care at a lower cost.

While 28% of employers are interested or very interested in exploring ACOs, 37% are somewhat interested, 24% are unsure, and 11% are not at all interested. Quality of care delivered is the top ranked factor by 82% of employers in evaluating the use of ACOs, according to the survey. This was followed by the ability to manage the total cost of care (81%), patient outcomes (66%), and plan/provider pricing transparency (47%).

In addition, the survey found that 87% of employers believe having a primary care physician in the ACO would be a critical or important positive influence on employee acceptance of the model. Nearly 80% said awareness or reputation of the sponsoring organization is critical or important in influencing employees in a positive manner and 71% of organizations said having different ACO networks or models to choose from would be a critical or important positive influence on workers. Conversely, 74% of employers indicated that limiting patients to only ACO network providers for care and services would be a significant negative influence on employees, and 66% said the same related to the limited track record of ACOs.

When asked to what extent each group should share in the ACO's cost management risk, employers cited medical groups the most (23%), followed by hospitals (22%), health plans (21%), employers (18%), and employees (15%).

The survey contains responses from 674 employers that provide health care coverage to more than 5 million individuals. For more information, visit

For a comprehensive analysis of the ACA, and additional information on health reform and other developments in employee benefits, just click here.


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