Health Highlights: Jan. 12, 2016

Here are some of the latest health and medical news developments, compiled by the editors of HealthDay:

Millions of Medicare Beneficiaries Gain Access to Coordinated Care

Almost 9 million more Medicare beneficiaries will soon have access to coordinated care, U.S. health officials said Monday.

They announced 121 new “accountable care organizations,” or ACOs, which are networks of doctors and hospitals that work together to provide better service for Medicare patients with chronic health problems, the Associated Press reported.

The expansion of a major experiment means there will now be 477 ACOs nationwide and close to 1 in 4 seniors with traditional Medicare will receive their care through the organizations.

Twenty-one of the ACOs will be permitted to recruit patients, and they already have 650,000 beneficiaries, according to Patrick Conway, Medicare’s chief medical officer.

He said Medicare beneficiaries should talk to their doctor to help them make a decision about joining an ACO, and they can call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 to find out if there is an ACO in their community, the AP reported.

The goal of the program is to improve quality and lower costs, and how well they meet these goals determines part of the ACOs’ payment from Medicare.