Mental Health in ACOs: Missed Opportunities and Low-Hanging Fruit



The authors of a recent article in The American Journal of Managed Care discuss the benefits and importance of integrating mental health care into Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs). ACOs are patient-centered coordinated systems of care created through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) (also referred to as "Affordable Care Act" or ACA). They have specific quality and performance standards they must meet in order to receive payments under the Medicare Shared Savings Program (MSSP). ACOs are incentivized to improve patient outcomes to benefit from shared savings; however, they are not directly incentivized to improve mental healthcare which the authors say is “missed opportunity to champion integrated mental healthcare.” The authors argue that “in order for ACOs and the medical home to achieve the “triple aim of improved care for patients and populations at a lower cost, mental health care must be integrated within PCMHs.” Financial and organizational models for integrating mental health into primary care are suggested in the article. The authors specifically discuss the Chronic Care Model (CCM) and encourage ACOs to increase focus on mental health care to reap the full benefits of the MSSP and meet the goals of improving health care outcomes while reducing costs.


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