Medicare coordinated-care pilot programs fail to live up to expectations, study finds

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Most Medicare test programs designed to cut costs and keep elderly patients with one or more chronic conditions out of the hospital have failed, according to a recently published analysis of such programs.

Researchers at Mathematica Policy Research Inc. looked at 15 Medicare coordinated-care pilot programs around the country to see whether they were able to reduce rehospitalization among chronically ill seniors while saving on Medicare costs. Only two of the 15 programs were able to reduce rehospitalization, and not one of the programs saved any money, according to the study. Nine out of 10 seniors have at least one chronic condition, such as diabetes or heart disease, and up to 75% of all healthcare spending goes to treat chronic conditions (McKnight's, 5/30/08).

While the pilot programs didn't achieve their goals, researchers say they shouldn't be abandoned quite yet. When done correctly, researchers say coordinated care efforts can offer real health benefits to beneficiaries. The full report appears in the Feb 11 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.