HHS Approves Two Texas ACOs

Physician groups in Austin and Fort Worth are among 32 organizations [PDF] the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has selected to be pioneer accountable care organizations (ACO).

Fort Worth-based North Texas Specialty Physicians and Texas Health Resources will partner to treat Medicare patients in Tarrant, Parker, and Johnson counties. HHS also chose Seton Health Alliance – a partnership between the Seton Healthcare Family and Austin Regional Clinic (ARC) – to participate in the ACO pilot program. 

HHS officials say the pioneer ACO model will test the effects of several payment arrangements to help these groups provide better care and outcomes at a lower cost. HHS estimates the project could save up to $1.1 billion over five years. 

The Seton Health Alliance ACO will be open to community physicians and other health care professionals, and plans to expand its collaborators and programs over the next several years. 

"The alliance's ACO model will aim to offer convenience and high levels of service consistent with Austin Regional Clinic's core approach to providing care," said Norman Chenven, MD, ARC chief executive officer and founder. "We want our patients to be active participants in their own treatment plans, guided by doctors and staff who listen and honor patient choices. The alliance will offer enhanced coordinated care in Central Texas in an effort to improve the health of our entire community."   

North Texas Specialty Physicians is a multispecialty group with nearly 600 family and specialty physicians in Tarrant, Parker, and Johnson counties, while Texas Health Resources is one of the largest faith-based nonprofit health systems in the country, serving 16 counties. Seton Health Alliance's service area includes an 11-county region in Central Texas, with 13 hospitals in seven cities including Austin, Round Rock, Kyle, Luling, Burnet, and Smithville. It includes 21 primary and specialty care outpatient clinics in six cities, including Austin, Round Rock, Cedar Park, Hutto, Pflugerville, and Kyle. 

HHS says it selected the organizations for their "significant experience" in offering coordinated, patient-centered care and operating in ACO-like arrangements. The groups participated in an open, competitive process in which HHS received 160 letters of intent and 80 applications. 

HHS based part of the selection on providers agreeing to ensure that up to half of their income will come from similar private-payer models. 

Action, Jan. 3, 2012