NASW Comments on ACOs: Professional Social Workers Essential to Patient-Centered, Coordinated Health Care

Jun 9, 2011

The 2010 Affordable Care Act created a new category of health care provider – the accountable care organization (ACO).  ACOs represent a paradigm shift from traditional fee-for-service health care.  These organizations will receive financial incentives to improve the coordination and quality of care for Medicare beneficiaries, while reducing costs.  The emergence of ACOs reflects the health care industry’s shift toward care coordination, with the locus of care centered within a primary care medical home.  If it proves successful, the Medicare ACO model is likely to be replicated broadly.

As the only health care professionals devoted exclusively to addressing the psychosocial needs of Medicare beneficiaries, social workers are essential members of ACOs.  Yet, the proposed rule for ACOs does not reference the social work role in caring for Medicare beneficiaries.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) recently requested public comment on how ACOs should operate.  NASW argued persuasively for the inclusion of professional social workers in these new provider organizations – and for strong protections for Medicare beneficiaries.  Read NASW’s comments.

As health care relies increasingly on evidence-based practice, the social work profession needs research to demonstrate its value to interdisciplinary health care teams.  Are you involved in or aware of a program for which such research is available?

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