Recent news has been full of stories about the crisis in rural health care. We have seen accounts of physician shortages, hospital closures, and barriers to basic preventive services. Care in rural areas can seem harder and harder to access.  

But the news about rural health care is not all grim. Some rural providers have been thriving in value-based payment thanks to the leadership of Caravan Health. The New England Journal of Medicine published a study last month about the financial success of the ACO Investment Model, or AIM. AIM gave rural and smaller ACOs a federal boost in value-based care between 2016 and 2018. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services invested nearly $80 million in 41 new small and rural ACOs to facilitate the move to value-based payment. Without these funds, these providers generally lack the financial capital for necessary infrastructure improvements, particularly for information technology.  

This study showed that AIM ACOs saved a total of $131 million in Medicare costs in 2016, their first performance year, compared to a similar population that was not in an ACO. When the original loans, incentive payments, and shared savings paid to ACOs are factored in, these AIM ACOs saved a net $48.6 million in 2016.  

These financial results prove that investing in rural providers pays for itself and more. With appropriate support, rural providers won’t be held back from the nationwide move from volume to value. This isn’t the first time we have heard about the resounding success of AIM - the official CMS program evaluation showed similar results last year.  

What is Caravan’s Connection to AIM? 

Caravan Health is proud to have played a key role in the AIM program. We assisted 21 of these ACOs by convening groups of rural providers and guiding them with our proven population health model for care transformation. Our clinical methodology and governance structure have led our ACOs to the top for years now, inside and outside of AIM. This confirmation of strong AIM results again demonstrates the strength of our model.  

What’s Next for Rural Health Care? 

CMS Administrator Seema Verma has announced that a new value-based model for rural health care is on the way later this year.  While we don’t know details yet, we hope that CMS will roll out an even more robust program based on the successful results AIM has delivered. We stand ready to assist CMS and rural providers across the country in transforming to provide robust, accountable care, everywhere.

If you missed our recent webinar about the new models, you can watch it here.

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