Medicare care-coordination programs fail to lower costs

The vast majority of Medicare care-coordination programs of chronically ill Medicare patients showed no significant cost savings or health improvements, according to a study published last month.

The results, published in the February 11, 2009, edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association and widely reported by such outlets as the Associated Press and The Wall Street Journal, showed that in 13 of the 15 Medicare care-coordination programs with more than 18,000 patients over a three-year period, there was no decrease in hospitalizations over a non-coordinated control group. One program showed a 17 percent decrease in hospitalizations, and another showed a 19 percent increase. None of the programs showed significant savings.

On average, patients in the programs were contacted by phone twice a month by a care coordinator-typically a nurse-to discuss their condition, medication compliance, diet, exercise, and other self-care duties. Physicians in all programs received written reports on the patients.