Humana Inc. has worked with a health care system in its hometown to create the community’s first commercial accountable care organization (ACO).

Humana, Louisville, Ky. (NYSE:HUM), is forming the ACO with Norton Healthcare, Louisville. Norton Healthcare runs 5 hospitals and 12 clinics in the Louisville area.

An ACO is a vehicle for paying teams of health care providers to care for whole patients, instead of paying for care one service at a time.

In the past, the federal government tried to hold down rising health care costs by imposing strict limits on health care providers’ financial relationships with other providers. The Affordable Care Act, the legislative package that includes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA), is requiring Medicare to experiment with ACOs, and many private health carriers now have ACO programs.

An arm of the Brookings Institution, Washington, and the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice picked Humana and Norton Healthcare to participate in one of five ACO pilot programs.

The other pilot program ACOs are in Roanoke, Va.; Tucson, Ariz.; Torrance, Calif.; and Irvine, Calif.

The Louisville ACO will start out focusing on improving use of preventive screenings and tests, such as mammograms and vaccinations.

- Allison Bell