Implementing “Accountable Care Organizations” a Priority for Berwick

Newly-instated Medicare chief Donald Berwick is wasting no time implementing the government’s proposed new health care model of accountable care organizations, according to a report that appeared in The Boston Globe today. Berwick, former Harvard professor and Cambridge health guru, has kept a low profile after controversy surrounded his appointment as head of Medicare. reducing Medicare costs

Behind the scenes, however, Berwick has been moving ahead quickly with plans to launch between 100 and 300 sites that will test new models of care designed to cut costs and improve the quality of care. The new model is expected to pave the way for a shift from “fee-for-service” care to a “global payments” system. “Under global payments, physicians are paid flat fees for coordinating care for populations of patients, with built-in financial incentives for keeping them healthy and reducing hospital stays,” says Christopher Rowland, Globe Staff.

Test sites are expected to launch by the end of 2011, but this also marks an important turning point for Berwick and the Medicare program. Berwick, who was at the center of politicial controversy at the time of his recess appointment, will have to win over some Republican senators over the next year to avoid being ousted when his recess appointment expires — accordingly, at the end of 2011.

Among Berwick’s other priority tasks are cutting the fat from extra payments being made by the government to private insurance companies for sponsoring Medicare Advantage programs, as well as overseeing the drastic expansion of Medicaid services in many states.

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