[Wall Street Journal]

Nearly half of the 114 hospitals and doctor groups that began Accountable Care Organizations under the health law in 2012 managed to slow Medicare spending in their first year, but only 29 of them saved enough money to qualify for bonus payments, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said Thursday.

CMS called the results “very promising”—particularly for the first year of a program that involved significant changes in the delivery of health care. But the fact that more than half the ACOs didn’t achieve savings underscores the challenges that remain in curbing health-care costs this way.

ACOs are a closely watched initiative within the Affordable Care Act meant to incentivize health-care providers to reduce the cost of caring for a group of Medicare patients while delivering high-quality services. Some are run by hospitals, some by groups of physicians.

While they can devise their own approaches, most emphasize preventive care and help patients manage their chronic conditions to avoid costly hospitalizations and ER visits.

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