Medicare P4P

Do Disease Management and Value-Based Purchasing Programs Work?

In short, the answer is no. The CBO released an issue brief examining two types of demonstrations.

  • Disease management and care coordination demonstrations have sought to improve the quality of care of beneficiaries with chronic illnesses and those whose health care is expected to be particularly costly.
  • Value-based payment demonstrations have given health care providers financial incentives to improve the quality and efficiency of care rather than payments based strictly on the volume and intensity of services delivered.

“The evaluations show that most programs have not reduced Medicare spending: In nearly every program involving disease management and care coordination, spending was either unchanged or increased relative to the spending that would have occurred in the absence of the program, when the fees paid to the participating organizations were considered. Programs in which care managers had substantial direct interaction with physicians and significant in-person interaction with patients were more likely to reduce Medicare spending than other programs, but on average even those programs did not achieve enough savings to offset their fees.”

Today, the healthcare economist looks at these programs in more detail.

Disease Management Demonstrations

These demonstrations were made up of 34 programs operated by disease management companies. “The programs used nurses as care managers to educate patients about their chronic illnesses, encourage them to follow self-care regimens, monitor their health, and track whether they received recommended tests and treatments. In most programs, the care managers were not integrated into physicians’ practices, and their contact with patients was primarily by telephone.”

These programs targeted Medicare beneficiaries with specific chronic diseases. Most programs were not tailored to focus on chronically ill beneficiaries who were expected to have the highest cost of care. The results are displayed in the chart:


CBO found that the lack of integration into the physician practice and the lack of physical presence made most of these disease management programs not useful.

Value-Based Purchasing Demonstrations

The list below describes the four major VBP demonstration programs and their findings.

  • Physician Group Practice (PGP) Demonstration. 10 large practices were permitted to keep some of the estimated savings if they reduced total Medicare spending for their patients. In the second year of the demonstration, average Medicare spending excluding the bonuses paid to physician groups was about 1 percent below projections; with bonuses included, average
    Medicare spending was just 0.1 percent below projections—about $7 per beneficiary. Results for years 3 and 4 of the PGP demonstration are currently being analyzed.
  • Premier Hospital Quality Incentive Demonstration. 278 hospitals were offered bonuses if their scores on quality-of-care measures were in the top tier of participating hospitals.  This demonstration had no net effect on Medicare spending.
  • Home Health Pay-for-Performance Demonstration. This demonstration allowed 273 home health agencies to keep some of the estimated savings if they reduced total Medicare spending for their patients and met certain criteria regarding quality of care.  Initial results indicate that this demonstration had no net effect on Medicare spending.
  • Medicare Participating Heart Bypass Center Demonstration. Medicare made bundled payments to cover all inpatient hospital and physicians’ services for coronary artery bypass graft surgeries conducted at seven participating hospitals. Bundled payments reduced Medicare’s expenditures for heart bypass surgeries by about 10 percent, and there were no apparent
    adverse effects on patients’ outcomes.

Whereas the first three VBP programs aimed to give providers bonuses for reducing cost and increasing quality, the Heart Bypass Center demonstration relied on bundled payments to align the financial incentives offered to hospitals and physicians. The bundled payments reduced cost without decreasing quality. Of course, measuring quality is difficult and it is possible that the Bypass demonstration did not fully capture all important aspects of quality. Nevertheless, these initial results indicate that bundling may be a more promising cost-saving mechanism than provider bonuses.


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