The Kansas City Star
reports that the city may be able to provide Washington with a model for how fix a critical element for health care reform: bringing down exploding health care costs: "Kansas City ranks in the bottom third for per-capita Medicare spending among major hospital regions. And while Medicare costs are growing, at 2.9 percent a year, that is significantly slower than the national rate." It notes: "Kansas City does seem to be playing it smart about how it uses its health care resources. Local initiatives — from 'report cards' on doctors to community discussions of end-of-life care — are improving health care quality and keeping costs low." The paper also emphasizes the city’s collaborative spirit in the health care industry and that area doctors are prudent about how they use the technology and facilities at their disposal.
The paper puts the city’s performance into larger context of health care reform and disparities in care by using Dartmouth Atlas research: "Washington has started looking to localities where health care costs are low for ways to put a damper on runaway spending nationwide. The potential savings are enormous. Medicare spent $16,351 on its average enrollee in Miami in 2006 — more than twice as much as the $7,604 spent in Kansas City. Extreme regional differences abound: $8,331 per enrollee in San Francisco versus $10,810 in Los Angeles, for example."
The paper reports that Kansas City shares some of the key characteristics of other low-cost areas such as having physicians on salary as well as home-grown initiatives that include doctors getting feed back on performance, involvement by the business community and doctors discussing end-of-life care with patients and families (Bavley, 6/27).