Bangor-based St. Joseph Healthcare announced it was forming the Community Care Partnership of Maine ACO with ten other healthcare organizations. The providers are: Penobscot Community Health Care, St. Joseph Healthcare, Mayo Regional Hospital, Sebasticook Family Doctors, Millinocket Regional Hospital, Cary Medical Center, Pines Health Services, Katahdin Valley Health Center, Portland Community Health Center, Nasson Health Care, and DFD Russell Medical Center.

“CCPM’s members are all capable and independent community health care organizations which are wholly committed to ensuring the delivery of high quality and effective health care to the people of their communities in a manner that is cost effective and promotes better health outcomes,” said Kenneth Schmidt, CEO of Community Care Partnership of Maine.

St. Joseph said CCPM partners will share best practices and will achieve national quality standards, including patient care management, extended hours and “proactive utilization of electronic medical records for preventive care.”

CCPM members are already participating in MaineCare Accountable Community, Maine’s Medicaid ACO, and most will participate in a new MSSP ACO, in addition to commercial agreements.

Our Take: We’re starting to see a trend. Before we introduce the cringeworthy term coop-etition—show the consultant the door if you hear that word— we posit that the Affordable Care Act is responsible for fostering partnerships at a level never before seen.

Hospitals and health systems, facing a margin squeeze, are innovating in ways that make them more profitable and competitive. In today’s environment, that sometimes means partnering with the competition to gain market share. Many of the pressures on profits stem from Affordable Care Act initiatives and a gradual change from fee-for-service to value-based contracting.

Last week we reported that Horizon Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Jersey and seven large health systems formed OMNIA Health Alliance, which would soon be launching “a new suite of products” for employers—products that will offer lower premiums and reduced out-of-pocket expenses for consumers. Horizon stopped short of calling the agreement an ACO or specifying the structure of its incentive structure, 

In June, we reported that five health systems in North Texas launched Forward Health Partners, an ACO including five health systems, 42 hospitals and 72 outpatient facilities. And as we have discussed in several briefs, including last week, Anthem in California last year brokered a deal with seven Los Angeles and Orange County hospital systems to create Vivity, the first arrangement of its kind between an insurer and multiple competing hospital systems.

At a meeting this week with local industry leaders we suggested that the ACA has sparked competition and innovation in ways not addressed by the broader media. (In this case, the CCPM alliance made the local nightly news.) We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: whether the word “ACO” is still in vogue in 2020 is missing the larger point. Value-based contracting is here to stay. The population health movement has gone from a few academics and policy wonks at CMS to a philosophy that many employers, insurers and providers have embraced. 

And like it or not, at least for now, accountable care organizations are gaining speed. CMS will soon announce new participants in its Investment ACO model, as well as its Next Generation ACO. Earlier this year we crossed the 1,000 mark for existing ACO agreements in our commercial ACO database.

If your organization remains skeptical, ask yourself if that skepticism is a reflection of leadership being smartly conservative, or if it reveals a lack of awareness of just how much health care is changing every day. 

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