Accountable care comes to KC

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- The sweeping health care law includes some measures aimed at controlling spending by trying to keep you healthier. Accountable care has come to Kansas City.

A dozen primary care practices have formed Kansas City's first ACO -- accountable care organization. The federal government is giving them more than two million dollars upfront to provide Medicare patients with care that eliminates unnecessary testing and procedures, prevents errors and helps patients avoid hospital stays.

The incentive for the docs? They get to keep some of that money if they meet quality and patient satisfaction measures while lowering costs.

"If we're able to generate savings to the system, then we share in that savings with Medicare," says Dr. Nathan Granger of Clay Platte Family Medicine.

The focus is on people with complex medical issues. Mike Abbott, a Vietnam-era veteran, has complications of diabetes and also PTSD and depression.

"My problems started with little things. And if they can catch the little things, it won't become a big thing," says Mike.

A big, costly thing. The ACO sounds good to Mike.

"We need to save every penny we can when it comes to the government," Mike says.

Many hospitals, fearing they may lose more than gain, have been reluctant to sign on to the government experiment. None in Kansas City has yet.

"We're taking a leadership role. We certainly can't do it alone. We need to work with the hospitals and the community," says Dr. Granger.

A new analysis in the Journal of the American Medical Association finds there may not be the savings hoped for. It found you can't avoid expensive hospital stays for patients with the most complex problems.

The Kansas City Metropolitan Physicians Association has nearly 12,000 patients in the ACO that it formed.

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