A lot rides on the success of health reform ventures such as coordinated care organizations (CCOs), but not everybody knows what they are, including some of the people responsible for making them happen.
The Oregon Business Association honored 11 Oregonians this year for their contributions to CCOs, which are just being formed after winning legislative approval in 2011. One of the honorees said the task of CCOs is to fill in the white spaces between existing parts of the health care delivery system.
Senator Alan Bates, D-Ashland, talked about filling in the white spaces to ensure greater coordination in delivering health care services to improve patient outcomes and save money. He gave an example of a man who underwent extensive medical treatment for physical ailments, while his underlying psychological issues weren't diagnosed or addressed.
CCOs call for unprecedented levels of coordination between health care providers that are competitors. People seem to be playing well in the sandbox together now, but how it ultimately works out remains unknown.
Just as important is whether CCOs can help stem the tide of rising medical costs for low-income Oregonians as budget pressures build at the state and federal levels to find cuts in Medicaid and Medicare.
The predecessor term to CCOs — accountable care organizations — was first used in 2006 by Elliott Fisher, Director of the Center for Health Policy Research at Dartmouth Medical School, during a discussion at a public meeting of the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission. The term quickly gained credibility, reaching its pinnacle in 2009 when it was included in the federal Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.