In 2013, its first year taking part in CMS’ Shared Savings Accountable Care Organization (ACO) Program, Donna, Texas-based Rio Grande Valley Health Providers, LLC, saved nearly $12 million and followed that up with savings of more than $7.5 million in year two.
Despite being in an area of the country where the incidence of diabetes is as high as 40%, the ACO’s diabetes patients fare better than patients within most other ACOs around the country.
Among the ACO’s diabetes patients, 75% had A1c levels below 8% in 2013 and that number increased to 77% in 2014. In 2013, the mean performance for ACOs on that quality measure was 69%, whereas no comparable data was available in 2014. In reporting years 2013 and 2014, Rio Grande Valley ACO’s patients were also more likely to receive depression, colorectal cancer, and mammogram screenings, when compared to other ACOs around the country.
Managed Healthcare Executive (MHE) recently interviewed Jose F. Pena, MD, chief executive officer and chief medical director of Rio Grande Health Providers, LLC, to find out what has led to the ACO’s success.
MHE: Tell me about the patient population you serve. What are some of the health issues they suffer from?
Pena: We’re in South Texas, which has a population that’s about 80% Hispanic. A lot of first- and second-generation Mexican-Americans call this area home. This population has a very high incidence of diabetes, which leads to hypertension, high cholesterol, and other health issues. Driven by genetic factors and diet, at 40% of our population, our area in South Texas has the highest prevalence of diabetes in the country.
The average per-capita salary in our area is about $10,000 per year. Many of these patients don’t speak English in this part of South Texas that’s about 20 minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border.