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CMS launches ACO initiative to boost rural, underserved areas

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A new program may make it easier for rural practices to invest in the infrastructure needed to join an accountable care organization.

A new initiative by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will make it easier for small, rural accountable care organizations (ACOs) to succeed.

CMS says the program, called the ACO Investment Model, will provide up to $114 million in funding for as many as 75 ACOs, targeting rural and underserved areas across the country. CMS says the upfront funding will allow these ACOs to invest in the infrastructure needed to better coordinate care.

Read: ACOs lag in health IT, interoperability advancements

“The ACO Investment Model will give Medicare Accountable Care Organizations more flexibility in setting quality and financial goals, while giving them greater accountability for delivering quality care efficiently,” CMS Administrator Marilyn Tavenner said in a written statement. “We are working with these organizations to make necessary investments that encourage doctors, hospitals and other health care providers to work together to better coordinate care and keep people healthy.”

For ACOs that joined the Medicare Shared Savings Program in 2012 or 2013, the application deadline is December 1. For those who joined in 2014 or plan to join in 2016, applications will be available in the summer of 2015. Visit CMS’ ACO Investment Model website for application details.

CMS touts the Pioneer ACO Model and the Medicare Shared Savings Program as having saved Medicare more than $372 million. However, recent data released by CMS shows that some of the ACOs within its Pioneer program struggled to achieve savings.

READ: Pioneer ACOs performance is mixed in first two years, CMS data shows

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