In the time I’ve worked in the healthcare practice at Solomon McCown, I’ve discovered that healthcare—as with any industry—has a language of its own, including a handful of acronyms related to healthcare reform. For people who aren’t as immersed in healthcare industry news, these terms and phrases can certainly be confusing.

It’s key to know your audience. When an audience is familiar with the healthcare industry—whether it be a client, reporter or coworker—it’s probably fine to use these abbreviations. He or she is likely to know about the trends and ideas in healthcare and have a grasp on what these mean.

However, when communicating with someone who isn’t as involved in the healthcare world, it’s best to spell out each phrase and provide more background information about the topic.

Here are just a few of the key acronyms related to healthcare reform you should know:

  • ACA – This is an easy one: Affordable Care Act. Commonly referred to as Obamacare, this is the Obama administration’s signature health reform law that aims to insure all Americans, reduce costs, and improve care delivery.
  • HIX – Health Insurance Exchanges. The exchanges are online marketplaces where consumers can shop for health insurance. You’ve probably heard that the rollout of this key ACA provision hasn’t exactly been going according to plan. The federal website healthcare.gov, which runs the exchanges for 36 states, only enrolled 26,794 people in a plan between October 1 and November 2. Here in Massachusetts, almost 54,000 people started an application on the Health Connector website but only 800 have successfully completed the application process. These numbers are frightening, considering 150,000 Massachusetts residents need to re-enroll in new plans through the Connector.
  • FFS – Fee-for-Service. This is a payment model in which health care providers are reimbursed for each service they provide. Office visits, tests and procedures are all billed separately. Studies have found that the fee-for-service model contributes to cost inflation and fragmented care, so health reform is encouraging providers and insurers to create new payment models.
  • ACO – Accountable Care Organization. An ACO is a network of doctors, hospitals and other care providers that offers coordinated care to patients to eliminate unnecessary spending. Using coordinated care, patients—especially those with chronic illnesses—get the care they need in a way that can reduce the cost of treatment. ACOs are a way to correct a payment system that rewards more—not better—care. When an ACO is successful in delivering care that improves patients’ health and reducing spending, it gets to share in the savings it achieves. 

Any health reform acronyms we missed? Let us know on Twitter.