An Accountable Care Organization (ACO) is a network of doctors and hospitals that shares responsibility for providing care to patients. In the new law, an ACO would agree to manage all of the health care needs of a minimum of 5,000 Medicare beneficiaries for at least three years. The goal is coordinated care that will deliver high-quality care at lower cost - and that both the ACO and Medicare will share in the savings achieved.
The first applications for the ACO Shared Savings Program are due in January 2012, and the first ACOs are expected to launch in April. Medicare offers a few varieties of ACO programs, including: