CMS improves direct contracting in the ACO model redesign

Feb. 25, 2022

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has announced a redesigned Accountable Care Organization (ACO) model that strives to achieve an equitable new model of healthcare service delivery and payment to improve the quality of care that people receive, including those in underserved communities.

The ACO Realizing Equity, Access, and Community Health (REACH) Model, a redesign of the Global and Professional Direct Contracting (GPDC) Model, addresses stakeholder feedback, participant experience, and Administration priorities, including CMS’ commitment to advancing health equity.

In addition to transitioning the GPDC Model to the ACO REACH Model, CMS is canceling the Geographic Direct Contracting Model effective immediately. The Geographic Direct Contracting Model, which was announced in December 2020, was paused in March 2021 in response to stakeholder concerns.

As CMS works to achieve the vision outlined for the next decade of the Innovation Center, CMS wants to work with partners who share its vision and values for improving patient care, guided by three key principles:

  • First, any model that CMS tests within Traditional Medicare must ensure that beneficiaries retain all rights that are afforded to them, including freedom of choice of all Medicare-enrolled providers and suppliers.
  • Second, CMS must have confidence that any model it tests works to promote greater equity in the delivery of high-quality services.
  • Third, CMS expects models to extend their reach into underserved communities to improve access to services and quality outcomes. Models that do not meet these core principles will be redesigned or will not move forward.

Consistent with these principles, the ACO REACH Model, tested under the CMS Innovation Center’s authority, will adhere to the following priorities: a greater focus on health equity and closing disparities in care; an emphasis on provider-led organizations and strengthening beneficiary voices to guide the work of model participants; stronger beneficiary protections through ensuring robust compliance with model requirements; increased screening of model applicants, and increased monitoring of model participants; greater transparency and data sharing on care quality and financial performance of model participants; and stronger protections against inappropriate coding and risk score growth.

The ACO REACH Model builds on CMS’ ten years of experience with accountable care initiatives, such as the Medicare Shared Savings Program, the Pioneer ACO Model, and the Next Generation ACO Model.

The ACO REACH Model provides novel tools and resources for healthcare providers to work together more closely to improve the quality of care for people with Traditional Medicare.  

To help advance health equity, the ACO REACH Model will require all participating ACOs to have a robust plan describing how they will meet the needs of people with Traditional Medicare in underserved communities and make measurable changes to address health disparities.  

Additionally, under the ACO REACH Model, CMS will use an innovative payment approach to better support care delivery and coordination for people in underserved communities.

REACH ACOs will be responsible for helping all different types of health care providers — including primary and specialty care physicians — work together, so people get the care they need when they need it. In addition, people with Traditional Medicare who receive care through a REACH ACO may have greater access to enhanced benefits, such as telehealth visits, home care after leaving the hospital, and help with co-pays. They can expect the support of the REACH ACO to help them navigate an often complex health system.

The GPDC Model will continue until December 31, 2022 and then will transition to the ACO REACH Model. In the meantime, CMS will operate the GPDC Model with more robust and real-time monitoring of quality and costs for model participants. GPDC Model participants that do not meet model requirements, such as participants that restrict medically necessary care, will face corrective action and potential termination from the model.

CMS release