Just when you thought it was safe to go back to the water, the CBO is out with the bad news that in its analysis of over 30 disease management programs, and none of the independently run ones saved Medicare any money. Even the ones that succeeded, which put the medical groups at risk and generally lodged the DM nurses with them (rather than have them call in on the phone), didn’t save enough to justify the costs of the program.
Now the first group isn’t a surprise to those of us who followed the fate of Medicare Health Support. The second group includes a series of demonstrations paying physician groups to save money. They did better, but not well enough to save once the extra costs of the program are included. (Details here). We can only hope that using more lightweight technologies with better understanding of patient behavior does in fact end up saving money–as has been shown in some commercial medical home settings. But we must also be prepared to admit that we don’t yet know how to save money in the care of the chronically ill under Medicare. Which means that the only obvious way to do it is to cut payments to providers!
Categories: Matthew Holt