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McKesson, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona form ACO Partner, a value-based physician helper

ACO Partner takes on upfront costs for physician practices, other providers to transform to value-based payments.

Susan Morse, Senior Editor

McKesson and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona are partnering to create a new service that helps physician practices that may not be part of a value-based network take on risk as traditional accountable care organizations do.

The service, dubbed ACO Partner, is not an accountable care organization. But don't call it a product either, said John Wallace, ACO Partner's new president and chief operating officer. ACO Partner is a service-based organization, said Wallace, who is McKesson's national vice president and general manager of accountable care services.

"It's more of support structure," Wallace said, for the physician practices and providers that need help making the transition to performance-based reimbursement.

It works like this: Physicians and providers sign a shared savings contract with a health plan participating within ACO Partner. Through the services provided, the practice reduces its expenses in medical claims in general, and a percentage of that savings goes back to the provider and insurer, according to Wallace.

[Also: CMS puts faith in Medicare ACO programs, but savings yet to be realized, experts say]

There is no cost to practices, so they share in the savings without the cost of infrastructure.

"We're making the bet to say, 'Let's do it for them.' We're taking on the responsibility of analytics," Wallace said.

So far, only Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona has signed on.

ACO Partner in marketed to independent physicians who may not have the resources to transition to value-based care, and also to ACOs and clinically integrated networks that may need help accelerating the transition to getting paid for high quality and cost effective healthcare.

[Also: Doctors can teach hospitals a thing or two about running an accountable care organization]

McKesson provides the services infrastructure and the analytics to support payers as they collaborate with the provider networks.

ACO Partner claims to help physicians with the practical components of value-based care, including disease management, care management, population health management and patient engagement.

Providers and payers contracting with ACO Partner have access to  strategic management, analytics, population health, technology, network development, physician engagement and care management services.

"A lot of ACOs are making heavy investments in services and technology without a clear roadmap for success," Wallace said.

A year from now, Wallace wants ACO Partner to have three to five health plans participating in state of Arizona.

Beyond Arizona, he envisions the model in multiple other states.

For patients, the new entity is intended to strengthen outcomes while helping reduce out-of-pocket expenses, Wallace said.

"Providers love it because they have a better patient experience," Wallace said. "Plans love it because they're seeing a higher quality of care delivered. And it extends to a more efficient cost structure."

Twitter: @SusanJMorse

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