Experts agree that the way health care is currently paid for in the United States, especially in the traditional, fee-for-service Medicare program, does not support coordinated care that is high quality and cost-efficient. To address these problems, policy-makers are taking a close look at accountable care organizations (ACOs). This policy brief explores what ACO are, how they compare to previous reform concepts such as Health Maintenance Organizations and Provider Sponsored Organizations, key design and implementation issues, and opportunities and challenges. The authors conclude that ACOs are no real game changers in the short term, but are nevertheless important to try.
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