UIHC, Mercy to participate in Medicare Shared Savings Program

BY KRISTEN EAST | JULY 10, 2012 6:30 AM

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University of Iowa Health Care and Mercy Medical Center officials say their participation in the Medicare Shared Savings Program will ultimately increase patient care for Iowans.

Health providers announced Monday that Mercy Medical Center and UI Health Care were selected to participate in the Medicare Shared Savings Program Accountable Care Organization, a new program sponsored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, according to a UI Health Care press release.

"Through the Shared Savings Program, Mercy and UI Health Care will work with [Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services] to provide Medicare fee-for-service beneficiaries with high quality service and care, while reducing the growth in Medicare expenditures through enhanced care coordination," the release said.

The selection is one of 89 new Accountable Care Organizations announced by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Monday. According to a release from the department, 89 new Accountable Care Organizations have been serving 1.2 million people with Medicare since July 1, and 2.4 million people are expected to receive better, more coordinated care. There are now 154 Accountable Care Organizations nationwide.

One UI Health Care expert said Medicare assigns each organization patients, and it's the centers' job to then contact them and help manage their health.

"The change [with this program] would be a higher level of management for these patients … these would most likely be nurses to help coordinate care with the clinical team," said Daniel Fick, a UI clinical professor.

According to the Medicare government website, an Accountable Care Organization is a group of health-care providers working together to provide better care.

"Better coordinated care is good for patients, and it saves money," Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said in the press release. "We applaud every one of these doctors, hospitals, health centers, and others for working together to ensure millions of people with Medicare get better, more patient-centered, coordinated care."

The Medicare Shared Savings Program and other programs related to Accountable Care Organizations are made possible by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, according to the release. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act on June 28.

Fick said it'll probably be a few years before any savings generated by this program are calculated, but this program is "not a money venture."

"This program is more designed for increasing quality for patients and collaboration with our partners," he said. "It also helps us develop our common primary-care network … so it's a win for the patients, and potentially a win for the hospitals also."

Fick is collaborating with Tim Quinn, president of MercyCare Community Physicians, on this program.

Quinn said the nation's current health-care model is not sustainable, and Accountable Care Organizations will provide needed transformational care.

"For all of our providers and patients [this program] means increased coordination of care across the continuum and increasing bouts of equality," he said. "[The UI and Mercy] are spending a tremendous amount of time … working together to combine efforts and coordinate our resources."

Both Fick and Quinn said the Accountable Care Organization between the UI and Mercy is comparable with the University of Iowa Health Alliance announced June 29, consisting of the UI Hospitals and Clinics, Mercy Health Network, Mercy Medical Center-Cedar Rapids, and the Genesis Health System.

Quinn said costs are lowered when services are widespread.

"Every time you provide health care across the system, the more you can spread out those costs across multiple organizations doing the same functions, [you can] lower over all costs to provide those functions," Quinn said. "It's improving care throughout the system [and] transferring those cost savings to patients and taxpayers and people who buy insurance."

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