Current healthcare costs can't be maintained, administration official says

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Current U.S. healthcare costs are unsustainably high for the relative value being provided — particularly for low-income individuals — Donald Berwick, M.D., administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services said Thursday.

While reiterating that the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act contains the tools needed to improve the system, Berwick cited patient safety and effective care for the poor as problem areas. However, in a briefing with the magazine Health Affairs, Berwick said coordinated care, such as accountable care organizations, is the best way to cut costs.

One example: Partnership for Patients, created under the PPACA. This program aims to reduce hospital-acquired conditions by 40% and hospital readmissions by 20% by 2013. It's “the largest effort, I think, ever undertaken anywhere in the world — certainly in our country — to try to help healthcare become safer,” Berwick said. While the government will invest $1 billion, the program is expected to save Medicare about $30 billion over 10 years, he said.

On the heels of a CMS memo that proposes behavioral therapy for obese Medicare patients, health policy professor Kenneth Thorpe also discussed community-based weight loss programs at the briefing, according to published reports. If these programs were available to those over 60 who are at risk for diabetes, Medicare could save $15 billion over the lifetimes of baby boomers, Thorpe said.
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