Now Even Large Hospital Systems are Running from Obamacare's ACO Regulation

Accountable Care Organization (ACOs) have been criticized as only feasible for large organizations such as hospitals. But the Obama Administration's proposed regulation on ACOs is so burdened by restrictions, mandates, and penaties, that now even hospitals are saying they won't participate in the voluntary program without "substantial revisions."

Here are a few examples from CQ HealthBeat Associate Editor, Rebecca Adams:

Cleveland Clinic

Oliver "Pudge" Henkle, the chief government relations officer at the Cleveland Clinic, said, "The assumption has been that Cleveland Clinics of the world are ideally suited for this. We are very supportive of the idea. It's clearly the right way to go and the journey is a good one. But it's a matter of recommending ways in which we think CMS can make the ACO model and its structure better." Henkle said the clinic will soon send CMS officials a comment letter outlining what he called "constructive recommendations." The current proposal contains a long list of barriers that clinic officials believe need to be reconsidered.

Mayo Clinic

"We think the principles and concepts are very good and very important and we've worked long and hard to provide accountable care," said Patricia Simmons, the medical director of government relations at the Minnesota-based Mayo Clinic. "Are we interested? Absolutely. But is it feasible? There'd have to be substantial revisions for us to participate."

Geisinger Health System

Geisinger is already participating in a different demonstration program and would only be eligible to join the ACO program after that concludes. But [Thomas Graf, chairman of the Community Practice Service of Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania,]said it's unclear whether Geisinger officials would want to take part in the ACO program at that point.

"The concept of the ACO program is certainly sound: the idea of improving quality while reducing cost," said Graf. "It's the regulations themselves that many organizations have a large number of concerns with. A lot of the detail-level work is problematic. It seems to be very prescriptive and restrictive with a fair amount of administrative and regulatory oversight."

A week ago we reported that CMS is aware of the strong criticism against the proposed regulation.

With the Congressional Quartly report, we now know that the contempt for the proposed regulation is broader than expected.

The Obama Administration will be forced to make major changes to this regulation.

But even if such changes are made, the publication of a regulation so restrictive that even ACO proponents are refusing to participate calls into question the Obama Admnistrion's judgment. It calls into question whether they really understand how economics and free markets interact with the American health care system.