Number of ACOs increasing, but some regions seeing slow growth

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The number of accountable care organizations (ACOs) has risen to 894 as of January 2016, an increase of more than 12 percent in the span of a year, but the model isn’t catching on in some areas of the U.S., according to a new analysis by Leavitt Partners and the Accountable Care Learning Collaborative published in Health Affairs.

Thirteen states have more than 20 percent of residents covered by an ACO contract: Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont and Wisconsin. On the flipside, Alabama, Mississippi, and West Virginia, had less than 3 percent.

“Growth has continued to vary across the country and across public and private health insurance programs, with significant growth in most population centers but increasing activity in some rural areas,” the report read.

The number of ACOs is limited in some less populated northern states: a region including Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming all have between two to three ACOs. Outside that region, Alaska and Vermont have the same limited number of ACOs.

Nationally, the report said that 28.3 million people are covered by ACOs, up from 22.5 million in its 2015 analysis, meaning the model now covers nearly 9 percent of the U.S. population.

“While ACOs are a growing model, they are far from the dominant model for health insurance coverage,” the report said.

The report concludes with an expectation that this growth will continue, even with political changes on the horizon after the 2016 election, saying “there is strong congressional pressure to hasten the transition toward paying for care based on the value created.”