January 18, 2012
By Lyle Nelson
This paper summarizes the results of Medicare demonstrations of disease management and care coordination programs. Such programs seek to improve the health care of people who have chronic conditions or whose health care is expected to be particularly costly, and they seek to reduce the costs of providing health care to those people. In six major demonstrations over the past decade, Medicare’s administrators have paid 34 programs to provide disease management or care coordination services to beneficiaries in Medicare’s fee-for-service sector. All of the programs in those demonstrations sought to reduce hospital admissions by maintaining or improving beneficiaries’ health, and that reduction was a key mechanism through which they expected to reduce Medicare expenditures. On average, the 34 programs had no effect on hospital admissions or regular Medicare expenditures (that is, expenditures before accounting for the programs’ fees). There was considerable variation in the estimated effects among programs, however. Programs in which care managers had substantial direct interaction with physicians and significant in-person interaction with patients were more likely to reduce hospital admissions than programs without those features. After accounting for the fees that Medicare paid to the programs, however, Medicare spending was either unchanged or increased in nearly all of the programs.