nurse and elderly man in chair

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services continues to prioritize accountable care organizations (ACOs), Medicare Advantage (MA) consumer protections, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) policies. Leaders of the agency stressed this during a consumer stakeholder call on Tuesday.

Meena Seshamani, MD, PhD, deputy administrator and director of the Center for Medicare, praised the agency’s recent ACO initiatives.

“The policies that we announced in the fall of 2022 are the first set of enhancements in growing the Medicare shared savings and represent some of the most significant reforms since the program’s inception,” Seshamani said, according to a transcript.

She noted that CMS is incorporating advanced shared saving payments to certain ACOs that can be used to address Medicare beneficiary’s social needs. It is “one of the first times that traditional Medicare payments would be permitted for such use,” Seshamani said.

In September, CMS disclosed that ACOs, which offer a variety of home care services, helped Medicare save $1.66 billion through the Medicare Shared Savings Program. Shared Savings Program ACOs are groups of doctors, hospitals and other healthcare providers, such as home health agencies, that collaborate to provide care to Medicare enrollees. The aim is to avoid unnecessary services and keep seniors out of the hospital.

Going forward, the agency is looking to grow participation and address ACO barriers with quality reporting, she said.

Seshamani on Tuesday also praised its proposed MA rule that protect consumers from misleading MA marketing collateral. She noted that the feedback CMS received from a July request for information regarding MA helped inform the proposed rule. The agency received some 4,000 comments.

“If finalized, the policies in this proposed rule would strengthen the Medicare Advantage program for more than 29 million people who rely on it for health coverage and … enhance the Medicare Part D program for 49 million people in the program,” she said. “The proposed rule takes important steps to protect beneficiaries and enhance and Part D benefits.”

CMS leaders may have touched on DEI the most during the one-hour presentation. Agency leaders starting with the chief emphasized the importance of DEI.

Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure kicked off the presentation talking about “how energized we all remain in making sure that the programs operated by CMS continue to have an equity focus. And whether that means in the way that we look at our payment policy, whether we’re talking about quality initiatives, whether we’re thinking about the materials that are prepared for providers, health plans and of course, people who are served by our programs. We’re really excited about the work underway.”

Read more coverage from the CMS stakeholder call.