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CMS Releases ACO Eligibility Memo

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a memo to Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP) applicants on March 16, 2012, in response to questions from Accountable Care Organization (ACO) applicants. The memo clarified and provided guidance on some of the requirements ACO applicants to the MSSP will have to attest to should they choose to sign a participation agreement for the MSSP.

The memo provides definitions for “ACO participant” and “ACO provider/supplier” according to federal regulations. An ACO participant is an individual or group of ACO providers/suppliers that is identified by a Medicare-enrolled Taxpayer Identification Number (TIN) that alone or together with one or more other ACO participants comprises the ACO. An ACO provider/supplier is a provider or supplier enrolled in Medicare that bills for items and services furnished to Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries under a Medicare billing number assigned to the TIN of an ACO participant. An ACO participant is identified by its Medicare-enrolled TIN number. The memo highlights the point that an ACO participant is identified by its Medicare-enrolled TIN. The key point of this section of the memo is that an ACO participant is not eligible to participate in an ACO unless all ACO providers/suppliers associated with the ACO participant TIN have agreed to comply with the program regulations. More simply stated, an ACO participant is not eligible for an ACO unless all providers and suppliers billing under its TIN have agreed to participate.

Further, all agreements between or among an ACO, ACO participant, and ACO provider/supplier must be executed before the ACO submits its application. The application process requires that an applying ACO provide a list of the ACO participants and associated providers/suppliers. Agreements to participate in the program must be executed by all of these parties prior to submission of the application.

The memo also specifies minimum content for an agreement or contract between an ACO and ACO participant. Agreements must contain an explicit requirement that the ACO participant agrees to participate in and comply with the requirements of the MSSP. Agreements must also contain the rights and obligations of ACO participants and ACO providers/suppliers, as well as give authority to the ACO to terminate the rights of an ACO participant for non-compliance. Furthermore, ACOs cannot require that beneficiaries be referred to ACO participants or providers/suppliers except as expressly permitted by regulation.

The final topic the memo covers is the eligibility requirement pertaining to the ACO’s governing body. Federal regulations require that an ACO have an identifiable governing body with the authority to execute the functions of the ACO. In cases where the ACO is comprised of multiple, otherwise independent ACO participants, the ACO must have a legal entity and governing body that is distinct and separate from each of them. The governing body must have oversight of, and responsibility for, strategic direction. The governing body must also have management which is accountable for the ACO’s activities, and governing body members who have a fiduciary duty to the ACO.

If you need assistance with the formation of an ACO, or need assistance with MSSP compliance, please contact Wachler & Associates at 248-544-0888 to speak with an experienced healthcare attorney.

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