A federal agency on Thursday announced 106 new health organizations that will participate in a special Medicare “shared savings’’ program, and nine of them...

A federal agency on Thursday announced 106 new health organizations that will participate in a special Medicare “shared savings’’ program, and nine of them will serve Georgians.

The groups are called “accountable care organizations’’ (ACOs), networks of physicians and other medical providers that seek to improve patient care and contain costs.

ACOs get paid more for keeping their Medicare patients healthy, and out of the hospital, under the federal Shared Savings Program.

It’s among a range of new initiatives by the Medicare program to improve the quality of patient care (Here’s a GHN article this week about a Medicare payment change for hospitals.)

Seven of the newly named ACOs will be administered in Georgia by a unit of Universal American Corp., a New York-based insurer. The Georgia organizations will be physician-led, said the company, which will run 31 ACOs overall.

Two previously announced Georgia ACOs are also overseen by the Universal American subsidiary. The Universal American organizations will cover several areas of the state, including metro Atlanta, Athens, Augusta, Statesboro, Albany, Warner Robins, Columbus and Savannah, said Chuck Trinchitella of Collaborative Health Systems, the subsidiary.

Through referrals among physicians, the ACO concept ‘’really did snowball’’ in Georgia, Trinchitella told GHN. And more growth in the state may be possible, he added.

Two other Medicare ACOs in the state were named Thursday. One is the Morehouse Choice Accountable Care Organization and Education System, and the other is the Premier Health Care Network.

Since the federal health reform law made ACOs possible, more than 250 have been established, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said Thursday. They are voluntary for both beneficiaries and physicians.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, more doctors and hospitals are working together to give people with Medicare the high-quality care they expect and deserve,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

In July, WellStar Health Network, based in Cobb County, was selected to participate as an ACO for Medicare patients in Georgia.

WellStar joined Meridian Holdings, Inc. based in Hawthorne, Calif., that will serve Medicare beneficiaries in Georgia and other states; and Accountable Care Partners, LLC in Jacksonville, Fla., which will serve Medicare members in Florida and Georgia.

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Andy Miller

Andy Miller is editor and CEO of Georgia Health News

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