Post-hospital care costs studied amid Medicare discrepancies
After years of trying to clamp down on hospital spending, the federal government wants to get control over what Medicare spends on nursing homes, home health services and other medical care typically provided to patients when they leave a hospital.
Researchers have discovered huge discrepancies in how much is spent on these services in different areas nationwide. Medicare spends $8,800 on each Louisiana patient receiving home health care, $5,000 more than it spends on the average New Jersey senior. In Chicago, one in four Medicare beneficiaries receives additional services after leaving the hospital — three times the rate in Phoenix. In Connecticut, Medicare beneficiaries are more than twice as likely to end up in a nursing home as they are in Arizona.
Medicare per capita spending on these services, collectively known as post-acute or post-hospital care, has grown 5 percent a year or faster in 34 of the nation's 50 most populous hospital markets in recent years, according to an analysis that health care economist Chapin White conducted for Kaiser Health News.
Last year, $62 billion — $1 in every $6 Medicare spent in the traditional fee-for-service program — went to nursing and therapy for patients in rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, long-term care hospitals and in their own homes, according to a congressional advisory panel.
Most of them received those services after leaving the hospital. Some of these providers earn double-digit profits from Medicare through payment methods that health experts say encourage unnecessary and disjointed care, waste taxpayer money and make fraud easier. More than a quarter of Medicare spending in Louisiana, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma and Texas was for post-acute care in 2011, Medicare records show.
Hospitals often are the gatekeepers to this world. But analysts say they do not consider costs — or sometimes patients' best interests — when discharging patients.
“They have not had to think remotely about costs or quality or anything except where's a bed available,” said Anne Tumlinson, a consultant at Avalere Health in Washington. “Often doctors have very little to do with the discharge decision. Largely, it has to do with the supply of providers and type of providers in the area.”
Now, Medicare is experimenting with new payment methods in which hospitals and post-acute providers would be given a lump sum to take care of a patient, forcing them to become more efficient if they want to make money.
In addition, President Obama has proposed reducing payments for some conditions to post-acute providers and beginning to pay the same rates for similar patients.
Stephen Parente, a health care economist at the University of Minnesota, said the changes are likely to upend much of the industry. “It's going to be a fairly ugly transition to get to a more efficient, streamlined system,” he said. “It's going to be a consultant's bonanza.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Breast cancers predicted to rise by 50 percent by 2030
- Missouri town, new mayor grapple with mass resignations
- Supreme Court takes aim at disruption by protesters
- Jury to weigh death penalty for Boston Marathon bomber
- 1Q earnings reports boost stocks
- Muslim leaders mixed on effort to curb extremism
- Flawed hair analyses lead to pledge of review
- Reagan shooter Hinckley closer to permanent freedom
- Minnesota Somali men foiled in plot to join terrorists in Syria
- Secret Service, Ebola coverage wins Pulitzers
- Federal agency proposes removing most humpback whales from endangered species list