ACOs in Rural Areas are Hard to Find
Doctors, clinics and hospitals in rural states find it difficult to join Accountable Care Organizations (ACO) due to lack of capacity, health care specialists and lower populations. Currently 104 of the 253 Medicare Shared Savings ACOs are concentrated in more populous states like Florida, California, and Massachusetts, Texas and New York.
This misdistribution problem causes concern for rural states with a high incidence of chronic illness such as Alabama, which has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country.
“If patients in a rural area are leaving the area to go to specialists in cities, that’s all outside the control of ACOs,” said David Howard, PhD, associate professor of health policy and management at Emory University in Atlanta.
Policy leader, Ken Perez notes that in addition to their lack of capacity, many industry professionals practicing in rural states are not convinced the ACO model even works and are “taking a wait-and-see approach”. He suspects it may take 3 to 5 years more to validate the establishment of ACOs in these areas.
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