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The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 15: Certification as accountable care organization (ACO); standards

Section 15. (a) The commission shall establish a process for certain registered provider organizations to be certified as accountable care organizations, herein referred to as ACOs; provided that no provider organization is required to become an ACO. The ACO shall be certified for a term of 2 years and renewable under like terms. The purpose of the ACO certification process shall be to encourage the adoption of integrated delivery care systems in the commonwealth for the purpose of cost containment, quality improvement and patient protection. The commission shall create a common application form for provider organizations that wish to apply to the commission. Within 30 days of an application submission, the commission may require the applicant to provide additional information.

(b) The commission shall establish minimum standards for certified ACOs. A certified ACO shall: (i) be organized or registered as a separate legal entity from its ACO participants; (ii) have a governance structure that includes an administrative officer, a medical officer, and patient or consumer representation; (iii) receive reimbursements or compensation from alternative payment methodologies; (iv) have functional capabilities to coordinate financial payments amongst its providers; (v) have significant implementation of interoperable health information technology, as determined by the commission, for the purposes of care delivery coordination and population management; (vi) develop and file an internal appeals plan as required for risk-bearing provider organizations under section 24 of chapter 176O; provided, that said plan shall be approved by the office of patient protection; provided further, that the plan shall be a part of a membership packet for newly enrolled individuals; (vii) provide medically necessary services across the care continuum including behavioral and physical health services, as determined by the commission through regulations, internally or through contractual agreements; provided, that any medically necessary service that is not internally available shall be provided to a patient through services outside the ACO; (viii) implement systems that allow ACO participants to report the pricing of services, as defined by the commission through regulations; further provided that ACO participants shall have the ability to provide patients with relevant price information when contemplating their care and potential referrals; (ix) obtain a risk certificate from the division of insurance under chapter 176U; and (x) shall engage patients in shared decision-making, including, but not limited to, shared-decision making on palliative care and long-term care services and supports.

(c) The commission may establish additional standards for an ACO. In developing additional standards for ACO certification, the commission shall consider the following goals for ACOs:

(1) to reduce the growth of health status adjusted total medical expenses over time, consistent with the state's efforts to meet the health care cost growth benchmark established under section 9;

(2) to improve the quality of health services provided, as measured by the statewide quality measure set and other appropriate measures, as established by the commission;

(3) to ensure patient access to health care services across the care continuum, including, but not limited to, access to: preventive and primary care services; emergency services; hospitalization services; ambulatory patient services; mental health, substance use disorder and behavioral health services; access to specialty care units, including, but are not limited to, burn, coronary care, cancer care, including the services of a comprehensive cancer center, neonatal care, post-obstetric and post operative recovery care, pulmonary care, renal dialysis and surgical, including trauma and intensive care units; pediatric services; obstetrics and gynecology services; diagnostic imaging and screening services; clinical laboratory and pathology services; maternity and newborn care services and related mental health outcomes; radiation therapy and treatment services; skilled nursing facilities; family planning services; home health services; treatment and prevention services for alcohol and other drug abuse; pain management, including non-opioid and non-pharmaceutical pain management; breakthrough technologies and treatments; allied health services including, but not limited to, advance practice nurses, optometric care, direct access to chiropractic services and physical therapy, occupational therapists, dental care, midwifery services, and end-of-life care services, including hospice and palliative care; and establishing mechanisms to protect patient provider choice, including parameters for out-of-ACO arrangements;

(4) to promote alternative payment methodologies consistent with the standards developed by the commission and the adoption of payment incentives that improve quality and care coordination, including, but not limited to, incentives to reduce avoidable hospitalizations, avoidable readmissions, adverse events and unnecessary emergency room visits; incentives to reduce racial, ethnic and linguistic health disparities in the patient population; and in all cases ensuring that alternative payment methodologies do not create any incentive to deny or limit medically necessary care, especially for patients with high risk factors or multiple health conditions;

(5) to improve access to certain primary care services, including, but not limited to, by having a demonstrated primary care and care coordination capacity and a minimum number of practices engaged in becoming patient centered medical homes including certified patient centered medical homes;

(6) to improve access to health care services and quality of care for vulnerable populations including, but not limited to, children, the elderly, low-income individuals, individuals with disabilities, individuals with chronic illnesses, including chronic pain, and racial and ethnic minorities, including demonstrating an ability to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate care, patient education and outreach provided by community health workers.

(7) to promote the integration of mental health, substance use disorder and behavioral health services with primary care services including, but not limited to, the establishment of behavioral health medical homes, recovery coaching and peer support and services provided by peer support workers, certified peer specialists and licensed alcohol and drug counselors;

(8) to promote patient-centeredness by, including, but not limited to, establishing mechanisms to conduct patient outreach and education on the necessity and benefits of care coordination, including group visits and chronic disease self-management programs; demonstrating an ability to effectively involve patients in care transitions to improve the continuity and quality of care across settings, with case manager follow up; demonstrating an ability to engage and activate patients at home, through methods such as home visits or telemedicine, to improve self-management; establishing mechanisms to evaluate patient satisfaction with the access and quality of their care; establishing mechanisms between payers and the provider organization such that any shared savings between the provider and the payer shall contain a mechanism to return a percentage of the savings to the ACO patients; and establishing mechanisms to protect patient provider choice, including parameters for accessing care outside of the ACO;

(9) to adopt certain health information technology, data analysis functions and performance management programs, including, but not limited to, the ability to aggregate and analyze clinical data; the ability to electronically exchange patient summary records across providers who are ACO participants and other providers in the community to ensure continuity of care; the ability to provide access to multi-payer claims data and performance reports and the ability to share performance feedback on a timely basis with participating providers; the ability to enable the beneficiary access to electronic health information, provided that the patient has provided consent; and the utilization of a proven performance management program, including, but not limited to, participation in the 2011and 2012 Health Care Criteria for Performance Excellence as developed in conjunction with the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence administered by the National Institutes of Standards and Technology of the United States Department of Commerce;

(10) to demonstrate excellence in the area of managing chronic disease and care coordination, as managed by a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, physician assistant or social worker, and as evidenced by the success of previous or existing care coordination, pay for performance, patient centered medical home, quality improvement or health outcomes improvement initiatives, including, but not limited to, a demonstrated commitment to reducing avoidable hospitalizations, adverse events and unnecessary emergency room visits;

(11) to promote protocols for provider integration, both with providers within and outside of the provider organization, including, but not limited to, clinical integration of the medical director of the laboratory, accredited or certified under the federal Clinical Laboratory Improvements Act of 1988, providing these services to the organization;

(12) to promote community-based wellness programs and community health workers, consistent with efforts funded by the department of public health through the Prevention and Wellness Trust Fund established in section 2G of chapter 111 and to promote other activities that integrate community public health interventions with an emphasis on the social determinants of health and which have been proven to improve health;

(13) to promote the health and well being of children, including, but not limited to, improving access to pediatric care, providing access to mental and behavioral health services for children, developing and improving pediatric quality measures, developing and improving on pediatric risk adjustments.

(14) to promote worker training programs and skills training opportunities for employees of the provider organization, consistent with efforts funded by the secretary of labor and workforce development through the Health Care Workforce Transformation Trust Fund;

(15) to adopt certain governance structure standards, including standards related to financial conflicts of interest and transparency; and

(16) any other requirements the commission considers necessary.

(d) The commission shall update the standards for certification as an ACO at least every 2 years, or at such other times as the commission determines necessary. The commission shall not deny an ACO certification based solely on the geographic location or size of the provider organization.

(e) The commission shall create a designation process for Model ACOs only to be conferred on ACOs that have demonstrated excellence in adopting the best practices for quality improvement, cost containment and patient protections, as determined by the commission. In developing this standard of excellence, the commission shall review the standards set forth in subsection (c).

(f) All ACOs shall publish the standards used by the ACO to determine which providers of free-standing ancillary services shall be approved to provide services to ACO patients. Free-standing ancillary services shall include, but shall not be limited to, durable medical equipment services, laboratory services, imaging services, dialysis centers, and services provided by free-standing diagnostic, non-hospital surgery centers. A provider of these services shall be informed in writing by the ACO of the standards by which they were accepted or rejected as an approved provider of these free-standing ancillary services for ACO patients.

The commission shall create a review process for aggrieved providers under this subsection that are denied approval by an ACO as a provider of free-standing ancillary services for ACO patients. For such process, the commission may review the following: (1) a comparison of the costs of services between an aggrieved provider and the costs of services provided within the ACO; (2) a comparison of the quality of services between an aggrieved provider and the quality of services provided within the ACO; (3) a comparison of the efficiency of services between an aggrieved provider and efficiency of services provided within the ACO; and (4) the extent to which the aggrieved provider meets the published standards used by the ACO to determine inclusion as an approved provider for ACO patients.

(g) The commission shall promulgate any necessary regulations to administer this section. In promulgating such regulations, the regulations shall, to the extent applicable and feasible, be consistent with federal law, regulations, demonstrations and rules governing accountable care organizations and shared savings programs.