Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What do accountable care organizations mean for Kentucky health care?

This week, Norton Health Care and Humana joined to create Louisville's first accountable care organization, referred to more commonly as an ACO.

The new Louisville ACO is one of four sites selected to be a part of a pilot program conducted by the Brookings Institution and The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.

So what does the mean for Kentucky health care?
The ACOs are a response to the gigantically intrusive health care reform law passed last May. They are defined as "a related set of providers ... that can be held accountable for the cost and quality of care delivered to a defined population."

Proponents tout that ACOs are "innovative" and will work to improve care and preventative services. However, not all health experts hold the same view.

The Heritage Foundation reported in August that ACOs force consolidation and "would prompt more doctors in small-group practices to leave medicine altogether."

John Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis wrote in The Heartland Institute's November's edition of Health Care News that the main problem with an ACO is the fact that the "patient is not the customer."

"The third-party payer is the [real customer]," Goodman writes. "The ACO is not trying to meet your needs. It's trying to meet the third-party payer's needs."

In order to improve true health care quality, we need a patient-centered approach to medicine. When a third-party gets involved, patient treatment and needs will be neglected.

Time will tell just what the impact of the new Louisville ACO on Kentucky's health care system will be, but for now, the prognosis to "fix" health care this way does not look good.

No comments: