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First look: New accountable care advocacy group

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May 10, 2023
Left: logo for Accountable for Health, which includes a drawing of three people with a circle around them. Right: Headshot of Mara McDermott, a white woman with dark curly hair and glasses

Photos courtesy of Mara McDermott

What exactly is "accountable care," and how can accountable models become more successful? A new group wants to help leaders on and off Capitol Hill answer those questions.

Driving the news: Accountable for Health is launching Wednesday with a mission to speed the transition from fee-for-service payment to models that improve health outcomes and experiences.

  • Mara McDermott, a health policy lawyer and lobbyist, is the group’s founding CEO. She previously worked at McDermott+Consulting, where her portfolio included running the Value Based Care Coalition.

Zoom out: McDermott thinks A4H can help revitalize the efforts around health care payment transformation.

  • “There's a lot of untapped potential there,” she said.

The details: A4H will focus on advocacy, education and research about accountable care policy across payers.

  • The group's more than 25 members include Optum, Agilon Health, United States of Care and the Innovative Healthcare Collaborative of Indiana.

Of note: The group also has a policy council chaired by Mark McClellan, director of the Duke-Margolis Center for Health Policy, and Melanie Bella, head of partnerships and policy at Cityblock Health.

  • McClellan served as administrator of CMS and commissioner of the FDA in the early 2000s. Bella is the current chair of MACPAC and was the first director of CMS’s Medicare-Medicaid Coordination Office during the Obama administration.

The big question: How will A4H differ from other organizations in the space, like the National Association of Accountable Care Organizations and the Alliance for Value-Based Patient Care?

  • The answer, McDermott said, is that A4H has a broad focus and will work across models, payers and programs.
  • “Other groups represent important slices of this movement, and there are areas where we will align and partner together,” she added.

There’s a distinction between value-based care and accountable care, McDermott emphasized. She sees it as a circle-and-rectangle situation.

  • Value-based care “could certainly encompass accountable care, but it also encompasses other things,” McDermott said.
  • “When we talk about accountable care, we are talking about care that is whole-person care, aligned incentives for payers and providers and the care team … and delivering that care for a person as they move through their health care journey.”

What’s next: The group’s priority is improving understanding among lawmakers and other stakeholders about accountable care, McDermott said.

  • The council will also work toward policy recommendations. A4H is starting to think about the future of MACRA, transforming care delivery for Medicaid and other policy recommendations, she said.

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