Will Bundled Payments Lower Costs?

bundled-costsThe Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) began their initiative to tie payments to quality or value earlier this year by implementing their Comprehensive Care Joint Replacement Model (CJR). The mandatory program holds hospitals accountable for all costs, processes and outcomes associated with hip and knee replacements performed on Medicare patients. Since hip and knee replacements are the most common inpatient surgeries for seniors, the CJR model is expected to serve as a critical test to determine whether bundles can help control costs and increase quality.

The quality of treatment and aggregate spending for a 90-day period, including surgery, recovery and rehabilitation will determine whether the hospital owes money or will receive additional payment from Medicare. CMS is establishing specific bundled pricing for each provider, then using data to determine regional pricing after five years.

Looking Outside the Walls

This model is forcing hospitals to evaluate overall care for joint replacements since clinical and financial success requires coordination between hospitals and post-acute care providers such as skilled nursing facilities. While joint replacements may represent only a portion of a hospital’s revenue, the Medicare Star Rating System tied to CJR will make provider performance public. Low performance will make it difficult to compete for Medicare-funded joint replacements in the future and many think that if bundling shows positive results, CMS will likely look to other areas of care.

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