Bundling Could Save Health Care Dollars If Snags Are Overcome

Modern Healthcare: "Bundling payments to hospitals and doctors for episodes of care is gaining momentum in the federal government and in the private sector as a way to increase provider accountability and improve care -- but lingering challenges may deter its application on a broader scale." Demonstration programs that use bundling -- paying doctors and hospitals a fixed amount for a package of services or time period per patient -- have helped hospitals, patients and doctors, save money. The Obama administration also hopes it can help save Medicare $17 billion over a decade.

But, "'The private sector is right not to wait around' for the federal government to take the lead on bundling, says Deirdre Baggot, administrator for cardiac and vascular services at 361-bed Exempla St. Joseph Hospital in Denver. 'They want to explore this as a viable payment strategy.' ... Bundling has progressed more slowly at the federal level because of a series of snags, even though the concept has been on HHS' agenda for decades. Medicare in the 1990s conducted a successful demonstration on payment bundling for heart bypass procedures, but various explanations have been given for why the project hasn't become an actual payment model. What we were told by the CMS is the project was very successful, but that they lost focus trying to get ready for any Y2K problems, Baggot says" (Lubell, 5/3).

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