More groups ask CMS to push back ACO deadline

More industry groups are pushing back against an upcoming deadline for accountable care organizations (ACOs) to apply to the updated Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP).

CMS reformed the program––now called “Pathways to Success”––late last year, giving ACOs until February 19, 2019, to apply for the program that begins July 1. According to 12 industry groups that signed a letter to CMS Administrator Seema Verma, that’s too soon. The groups include the American Hospital Association, the American Medical Association, and more. The National Association for ACOs (NAACOS) also urged CMS to push back the deadline for applications in an earlier letter.

The changes to the MSSP are significant and require ACOs to take on more financial risk while also reducing the amount of shared savings they can earn. With such a major overhaul, ACOs need more time to consider how they can be successful in the new program, the groups argued.

“Additional time is needed to ensure ACOs may evaluate their options and complete the administrative and legal requirements of the application,” the letter reads. “Without additional time, participation in this voluntary program will suffer.”

The changes were already expected to result in fewer ACOs participating in the voluntary program, according to CMS’ own projections from its proposal.

Some ACOs are finding the tight timeline “impossible,” according to the letter.

“We understand the time constraints CMS must operate within but ask that you keep in mind that this truncated timeline could harm program participation and we encourage the agency to consider a March 29, 2019 deadline,” the letter urges.

It is unclear if CMS will push back the timeline, but the agency does not seem to be concerned if fewer ACOs participate. HHS Secretary Alex Azar previously stated that fewer ACOs may be the cost of doing business in the agency’s pursuit to achieve savings with MSSP and push forward with value-based care. CMS has pushed forth with the reforms in an effort to, in part, create more savings for Medicare with ACOs.