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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Iowa Researchers: Data Shows Accountable Care Organizations Increasing in Rural Areas

In a recent policy brief from the Rural Policy Research Institute’s (RUPRI) Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis at the University of Iowa College of Public Health, researchers say that the number of Medicare accountable care organizations (ACO’s) is on the rise in non-metropolitan areas around the country.


[Photo: Dr. Keith Mueller]

According to the study, Medicare ACO’s now operate in nearly 42% of all non-metropolitan areas and non-metro provider participation in ACOs has increased considerably since 2013, especially in the South, West, and Northeast census regions. Additionally, the 101 new ACO entrants in 2016 included at least 43 ACOs with providers in nonmetropolitan areas.

Dr. Keith Mueller, Director of the RUPRI Center for Rural Health Policy Analysis and head of the UI’s department of health management and policy says that although the total number of providers remains small, the increased participation indicates rural interest in this program.

“We expect the pace of adopting the ACO model to continue because it is being promoted by private insurance companies and state Medicaid programs in addition to its continued use in the Medicare program,” Dr. Mueller says.

The study concludes that future research will need to focus on what can be known about the rural ACO experience based on statistical conclusions from a larger number ACOs operating for multiple years.