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Employer-Driven ACOs: The Next Big Thing?

Last month, Boeing announced that it is working with ACOs to provide what they believe will be better quality and more affordable care to 27,000 Puget Sound-area employees and some 3,000 retirees.

Boeing is the first employer to sign up with the ACO offered jointly by Providence Health & Services and Swedish Medical Center. This approach is believed to be advantageous because the middleman (the payer) is taken out of the equation between the patient and the provider.

“The part that is most notable about this is two-fold,” says Joe Gifford, MD, and CEO of the Providence-Swedish Health Alliance. “One is its scale. This is not a pilot. This is a huge chunk of the Boeing workforce. The other is that it is a direct offer for the employees of Boeing..the insurer plays a part, but is not the primary player at the table…the real direct arrangement is between the employer and the delivery systems.”

Unlike Medicare ACOs that are licensed by the CMS, the commercial ACOs that apply to employers are far more ambiguous. Commercial ACOs can be anything from a fully transformative change in the delivery of healthcare, to a rebranding of marginal managed care techniques that have been in place for years.

So how can an employer best navigate the different offerings and what does the employer-based ACO mean to the bottom line?

Boeing Sets Up Employer Based ACO Deals to Give Workers Access to First Class Healthcare by Lisa Stiffler, for MEDCITY News, June 18,2014

Providence, Swedish Health Launch Employer-Driven ACO by John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media, July 7,2014