Bundled Payments–Will They Really Lower Costs?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has announced a new initiative to help improve care for patients while they are in the hospital and after they are discharged. Doctors, hospitals, and other health care providers can now apply to participate in a new program known as the Bundled Payments for Care Improvement initiative (Bundled Payments Initiative).

 

Made possible by the Affordable Care Act, it will align payments for services delivered across an episode of care, such as heart bypass or hip replacement, rather than paying for services separately.  Bundled payments will give doctors and hospitals new incentives to coordinate care, improve the quality of care and save money for Medicare.

 

Currently, hospitals, physicians and other clinicians who provide care for beneficiaries bill and are paid separately by Medicare for their services.  This initiative will bundle care for a package of services patients receive to treat a specific medical condition during a single hospital stay and/or recovery from that stay – this is known as an episode of care.

 

By bundling payment across providers for multiple services, providers will have a greater incentive to coordinate and ensure continuity of care across settings, resulting in better care for patients.  Better coordinated care can reduce unnecessary duplication of services, reduce preventable medical errors, help patients heal without harm, and lower costs.

 

The Bundled Payments initiative is being launched by the new Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation (Innovation Center), which was created by the Affordable Care Act to carry out the critical task of finding new and better ways to provide and pay for health care to a growing population of Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries.

 

The Bundled Payments initiative is based on research and previous demonstration projects that suggest this approach has tremendous potential. For example, a Medicare heart bypass surgery bundled payment demonstration saved the program $42.3 million, or roughly 10 percent of expected costs, and saved patients $7.9 million in coinsurance while improving care and lowering hospital mortality.

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