South Dakota Could Provide Model For Medicare Reform

The Sioux Falls Argus Leader reports: "It might be only a footnote in health care reform this year, or perhaps a consolation prize. Either way, South Dakota ranks among the cheapest states in the nation for doing business through Medicare. The state is No. 47 with expenses averaging $6,253 for each person who uses the federal benefit to pay for health care. The U.S. average is $8,304. Officials attributed South Dakota's results to local efficiencies and preventive health, and hope the good score might earn the state some benefit in proposed reforms. So far it hasn't worked out that way, with Medicare cuts at this point appearing to apply evenly to all states. But researcher Elliott Fisher of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, says the gap should be a tool in the debate as the government looks for ways to pay for reform."

The paper reports: "The comparisons come from the Dartmouth Atlas Project, which shows the Upper Midwest and Great Plains leading the way. It concludes that economizing does not hurt quality.... Officials announced a plan last week for hospitals to surrender $155 billion in Medicare and Medicaid to help cover reform costs that could reach $1 trillion. That plan, still tentative in Congress, does not target high-cost states, but treats all states equally" (Walker, 7/15).

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