Can Promoting Primary Care Help Bend the Cost Curve?

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<p>Among the many provisions in the Affordable Care Act is a temporary, five-year, 10 percent increase in what Medicare pays for primary care services provided by primary care clinicians—not only family practice doctors, general internists, and pediatricians, but also nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, and physician assistants. Congress intended the change, along with others in the law, to reorient health care delivery toward primary care, which, if provided in a timely manner, can help reduce patients' need for more intensive, costly care later on.</p><p>In a new Commonwealth Fund issue brief, researchers at the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC) and Mathematica Policy Research report what would likely happen if this <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2012/mar/paying-more-primary-care-can-it-help-bend-medicare-cost-curve">increase in Medicare primary care fees were made permanent</a>. Using a simulation model with real-world parameters, HSC's James Reschovsky, Ph.D., and colleagues found that raising the fee would boost the number of primary care visits by 8.8 percent, while also raising the overall cost of primary care visits. But these increases would yield more than a sixfold annual return in lower Medicare costs for other services—mostly reductions in hospitalizations, outpatient services, and postacute care—once the full impact on treatment patterns is realized. The net result would be a drop in Medicare costs of nearly 2 percent.</p>
<p>Read the <a href="/publications/issue-briefs/2012/mar/paying-more-primary-care-can-it-help-bend-medicare-cost-curve">issue brief</a> to learn more about how health reform's focus on primary care could pay important dividends down the road.</p>
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