The results from the five year “Group Practice Demonstration” project, which incentivized ten leading health systems if they could reduce costs by “treating older patients more efficiently while providing high-quality care,” were reported June 1 in the Washington Post.
Although the article acknowledges that the test does not completely reflect the blueprint for ACOs eventually offered by CMS, the broad concepts of physician driven management, and incentivizing better disease management and lowering costs were included in the test.’
Blogger and Squire Sanders Senior Attorney Kelly Leahy offered a detailed analysis of the four year results of the Group Practice Demonstration in a previous blog post.
The study reports that innovation and better disease management were attained, but that “four of the 10 sites, all long-established groups run by doctors, slowed their Medicare spending enough to qualify for a bonus, according to an official evaluation not yet made public. Two sites saved enough to get bonuses in all five years, the evaluation shows, but three did not succeed even once.”
The readers’ comments following the article reflect a debate as to whether the Post was fair in its assessment that from a financial perspective the results were a failure.  Some argue that the start up years for converting to being an ACO model are bound to be more expensive, others argue that the health benefits from better disease management payoff over time, allowing for cost savings down the road. Others argue that the results show that ACOs are destined to fail because the point is to save money over the status quo.
What’s your view?  Does the experiment fairly reflect the current ACO model?  Are the Post’s criticisms fair? We welcome your constructive comments.