Healthcare Savings Through Bundled Payments

The United States has the unenviable record of spending the most on healthcare among other industrialized countries. America spends a whopping 18 percent of its GDP on keeping its citizens fit. It is natural that a number of schemes have been proposed to slash such gargantuan expenses. Bundled payments are one of such proposal. Medicare has already done a few pilot runs for hip replacements and knee replacements. It is seen that other than lowering costs, the quality of care did improve when this system was implemented.

Medicare and bundled payments

The bundled payments scheme was started by Medicare. It is not a brand new scheme, with variations of this concept tried before. The scheme takes a procedure, like a hip replacement, and views it as a complete product or service. The latter is packaged into a single service or payment. A big departure from Medicare's previous efforts was that the bundled payments scheme became a mandatory one. The option of choice was taken away from the hospitals. The scheme was rolled across a few selected regions in the United States.

The reactions from the participating hospitals were mixed. Some hospitals liked it, seeing it as an opportunity for trimming up the hospitalization process and a chance at increasing the profit margins. Other hospitals were terrified of the possibility that they will be deemed responsible for any untoward health complications which may happen outside their walls. According to analysts, hospitals saved approximately five percent of total cost of joint replacement or similar operations. This five percent is an excellent sum if calculated cumulatively over a year. A bird's eye view of all participating hospitals reveals that a few hospitals are winning and a few hospitals, losing.

Not all procedures

The US Government can take these results as proof of concept. Knee surgery and hip surgery are regarded as ideal, to try as they are well-defined procedures along with recovery. It is known that people enjoy active movement only about 90 days after the operation. If this is done by the patient, then one can deduce the affected individual being fully recovered. In contrast, patients of heart bypass surgeries cannot say whether the procedure was safe completely or not. Bundled payments, however, can be done for heart attack patients or individuals undergoing cardiac rehabilitation. The best beneficiaries of bundled payments are the patients as their premium payments get reduced.

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