Accountable care organizations created under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act are saving money already, the administration said this week.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services announced Thursday that overall savings for Medicare’s ACOs exceed $380 million over the past year.

“These innovative programs are showing encouraging initial results, while providing valuable lessons as we strive to improve our nation’s health care delivery system,” HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in a statement.

Under the ACO model — which brings together groups of hospitals, doctors and other health providers to direct patient care — organizations are paid for caring for a pool of patients rather than by procedure. Groups receive a percentage of the savings they generate for Medicare as an incentive for keeping costs low.

The initiative is a critical component of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The findings, Sebelius said, “demonstrate that organizations of various sizes and structures across the country are working with their physicians and engaging with patients to better coordinate and deliver high quality care while reducing expenditure growth.”

Of the 114 Shared Savings Program ACOs in the first year, 54 had lower spending than projected. Still, that means that half the ACOs didn’t achieve savings. And just 29 of the total number of ACOs saved enough money to receive bonus payments.

The agency didn’t identity which organizations earned savings, but said more information would be released at a later date.

But the administration said the information is “encouraging” for the longtime success of ACOs.

“Our experience has shown that ACOs can increase quality while lowering costs. As a result of the programs we’ve initiated, our patients have experienced better access to their primary care physician, higher quality measures, and fewer trips to the hospital,” Dr. Kenneth W. Wilkins, president of Coastal Carolina Health Care, said in the news release.  “We look forward to making continued progress and seeing future results, and we are grateful to CMS whose advance funding made these initiatives possible.”

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