That study also found that Medicare beneficiaries in Pioneer ACOs on average "report more timely care and better communication with their providers," "use in-patient hospital services less and have fewer tests and procedures," and "have more follow-up visits from their providers after hospital discharge," HHS noted.
The department called savings that have been realized so far "substantial" for a program that currently serves more than 600,000 beneficiaries in Medicare, the federally run health-care coverage system that primarily serves senior citizens.
Officials also said the results provide evidence that elements of the program should be applied to a much larger population of Medicare beneficiaries as part of the Obama administration's effort to reform the way that massive federal program pays for health care. Another report released Monday by the Office of the Actuary of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said that expansion of the Pioneer ACO model would reduce net Medicare spending.
However, the independent report also showed that significant savings were not necessarily realized to the same extent in every participating Pioneer ACO, two of which lost millions of dollars, and others which did not book significant savings or losses.
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Still, Burwell said that overall, "The report shows that the model has delivered high-quality patient care without limiting coverage or benefits."
"This is a crucial milestone in our efforts to build a health-care system that delivers better care, spends our health-care dollars more wisely and results in healthier people," Burwell said. "The Affordable Care Act gave us powerful new tools to test better ways to improve patient care and keep communities healthier. The Pioneer ACO model has demonstrated that patients can get high-quality and coordinated care at the right time, and we can generate savings for Medicare and the health-care system at large."
Dr. Lawrence Casalino of Weill Cornell Medical College, in an editorial published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association about the report, noted that the amount of money saved in the first year, about $280 million, may "seem small."
"But if this rate of savings could be sustained, and achieved throughout a large part of the U.S. health-care system, it would be more than enough to 'bend the cost curve' so that health-care expenditures do not continue to increase as a percentage of the gross domestic product and the federal budget," Casalino wrote.