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Healing cuts for Medicare
Date:9/4/2012

Medicare payment reforms mandated in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) for postacute care have great potential to lower costs without harming patients, a new study reports.

However, researchers caution, policymakers will need to be vigilant to ensure that these cuts don't result in one-time savings that revert to rising costs.

"We expect that the Affordable Care Act's dramatic cuts in payments to providers for postacute care will lead to decreased utilization and lower spending," said David Grabowski, Harvard Medical School professor of health care policy and lead author of the study. "Our work suggests that those changes will not have a dramatic effect on outcomes, based on analysis of patient mortality and hospital readmissions under previous cuts."

These findings are reported in the September issue of Health Affairs.

Each year, more than 10 million Medicare beneficiaries are discharged from acute care hospitals into postacute care settings: long-term care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities and patients' homes with services from home health agencies.

"These four sectors were among the fastest growing part of the Medicare program during much of the nineties," Grabowski said. Despite several efforts to curb spending, postacute care remains a major driver of rising Medicare costs.

ACA-mandated changes in payments for Medicare postacute care services are intended to contain spending in the long run and help ensure the program's financial sustainability. In addition to reducing annual payment increases to providers, the act calls for bundled payment models, accountable care organizations and other strategies to promote care coordination and reduce spending.

The researchers studied the effects of payment reforms from 1997, 1998 and 2002. The group also analyzed Medicare claims data to measure the impact of reforms on patient mortality and hospital readm
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Contact: David Cameron
david_cameron@hms.harvard.edu
617-432-0441
Harvard Medical School
Source:Eurekalert

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