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CIGNA Corp. (CI - Analyst Report) has expanded its accountable care initiative with Brown & Toland Physicians, which marks inclusion of more Brown & Toland doctors and locations.
 
Cigna had originally formed the Accountable Care Organization (ACO) with Brown & Toland in Oct 2012. The extension of the agreement has been effective since Oct 2013. Under the extended agreement, an East Bay affiliate of Brown & Toland -- Alta Bates Medical Group (ABMG) -- also joined the program. This resulted in Cigna customers being given access to 327 additional physicians at numerous locations in Oakland, Berkeley and elsewhere in the East Bay.
 
An ACO is a group effort by health care providers, who voluntarily form alliances to provide coordinated high quality care to patients. An ACO is accountable for the quality, cost, and overall care offered to members. By focusing on the needs of patients and linking payments to outcomes, this model of care intends to improve the health of individuals and communities and curb the rising health care costs.
 
Cigna calls its ACO-like initiatives Collaborative Accountable Care (CAC). ACOs or Collaborative Accountable Care, is one of the several ways by which President Obama has sought to improve the quality of health for all Americans. It is viewed as a tool that would deliver seamless, high quality care for the entire population.
 
Cigna's ACO with Brown and Toland will designate care coordinators to work closely with patients and monitor the services being offered. They will follow up with the patient throughout, sending reminders about screenings required or recommend direct medical help. At the same time, they will educate patients by helping them participate in various health and wellness programs and workshops. 
 
Cigna’s ACO initiative is based on Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) program. Through the PCMH Cigna works to improve patient care with strong focus on collaboration and communication with physician practices. 
 
At present, Cigna is engaged in 75 Collaborative Accountable Care initiatives in 26 states. These programs provide services to more than 760,000 Cigna customers. Cigna initiated its first CAC program back in 2008. Cigna aims to serve about 1 million customers via 100 CAC initiatives by 2014.
 
Along with its newly acquired subsidiary HealthSpring, Cigna has 240 ACO programs in 31 states serving more than one million customers. It has approximately 58,000 participating doctors, which includes nearly 20,000 primary care physicians and nearly 38,000 specialists. 
 
Companies like UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UNH - Analyst Report) and Aetna Inc. (AET - Analyst Report) are also assertive about ACO initiatives. 
 
Cigna currently retains a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy). Another stock, FBL Financial Group Inc. (FFG - Snapshot Report) carrying a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy) is worth considering.

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