Medicare ACO graphic. ACOs - health care providers providing high-quality health care

Medicare payments totaled $705.9 billion in 2017, up 4.2% from the previous year and accounting for 20% of the total federal spending budget for that year alone, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

AARP reported that 44 million Americans are currently enrolled in Medicare, and, by 2030, that number could reach 79 million. CMS has projected a of 5.5% growth per year for national health spending.

Can Medicare continue the way it currently covers America’s 65 and older population? That depends on keeping the cost of the program low, but, with so many people enrolled, how is that even possible?

The answer might be found in Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). Simply put, an ACO is a group of doctors or other health care providers that come together to provide high-quality, coordinated care to their Medicare patients. The care is defined as the right care at the right time. The health care providers avoid unnecessary services and focus on the wellness of the patient, especially on preventive measures.

Liberty Doctors is one of those providers. Along with other health care professionals in the community, they have formed an ACO called Freedom Healthcare Alliance, hoping to offer better care in the long run for Medicare recipients.

Lissa Lara, CEO of Quality Healthcare Development and Liberty Doctors said, “It just makes sense. Liberty Doctors wants to be a part of the solution to our health care spending crisis, not the problem.”

She explained that the ACO is definitely a win-win for both the patient and the doctor. For example, she said that ACOs help coordinate care with outside health systems and providers to make transitions in care seamless for the patient. She said they also bridge the gap in health care needs for their patients and help health care providers identify trends so they can implement changes to correct any negative issues that could be affecting their patients directly.

But how exactly would an ACO save a patient money? Preventive medicine is a major focus, and it means that ACOs are going to seek out measures that patients can take to avoid health problems in their near and distant future. Liberty Doctors makes sure Medicare patients are getting annual wellness exams, breast cancer screens and colon cancer screens; researching their risk of falling and chances of depression; and reconciling medications after they are discharged from the hospital.

“There are many other ways that we implement a preventive medical approach,” Lara noted. “Our care coordinators work with patients to prevent re-admission through various programs targeting high-risk patients. Addressing each of these health care needs with our patients will save our patients on health care costs with prevention, early detection and slowing the progression of chronic diseases.

This style of care will also keep patients independent for as long as possible and allow them to age in place, which in turn saves money and, in most cases, provides a better quality of life for the patient.”

Liberty Doctors has taken measures to provide more convenience for their patients by being more accessible. They provide same-day appointments and a Liberty Doctors laboratory that offers convenience, ultrasound services, X-ray and many other medical services.

“This is a partnership between the patient and the provider,” Lara said. “We are accountable for the cost of the care and the quality of care, and the patient is accountable for aspects such as getting preventive services, following through with their medication regimes and following wellness programs tailored specifically for them.”

Liberty Doctors has professional care coordinators as a part of its ACO program, as well as educational programs for patients that deal with chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and congestive heart failure.

“Rather than waiting on our patients to come to us, we are being proactive and reaching out to them to close gaps in health care needs,” she said. “In doing this, our Medicare patients feel that their provider really does care about their overall health, because, in all honesty, we do!”

Since 2013, ACOs have generated a savings of $2.66 billion to Medicare nationwide. If you are on Medicare and want to learn more about ACOs, contact Liberty Doctors at 843-225-8304 or visit www.libertydoctors.com.

By Theresa Stratford

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