Is the Administration Leaving a Promising Health Reform in the Cold?

Sen. Ron Wyden | Huffington Post | December 12, 2011

When the Veterans Affairs Department implemented a program to provide home-based health care to veterans with multiple chronic conditions -- many of the system's most expensive patients to treat -- they received astounding results. The amount of hospital stays for the veterans participating in the program went down by 62 percent and the number of nursing home days went down by 88 percent. In total, the cost of providing healthcare to these chronically ill patients shrunk by nearly 25 percent.

The University of Pennsylvania Medical Center found that a similar program instituted for a segment of the sickest Medicaid beneficiaries had similar results and not only saved Medicaid 23 percent of the cost of caring for these patients, it increased the survival rate for this group by 46 percent.

How do these programs realize such savings? By doing a better job of caring for patients with multiple, chronic and often debilitating diseases. These are patients who regularly see multiple doctors and are in and out of emergency rooms and assisted living facilities. Instead of leaving these patients to fend for themselves, these programs send health care providers to their homes to check vital signs, organize pill bottles and coordinate the patient's overall care.