Healthcare reform shows early signs of success

Backing up President Obama's claim that healthcare reform is working as planned, hospitals already are achieving cost savings and improved care under the law, Bloomberg reported.

For instance, more than 250 hospitals and physician groups joined the Obama administration's accountable care program and have shown early success.

Mount Sinai Care in New York City reports emergency room visits fell 54 percent among high-risk patients. The organization signed up for the Medicare Shared Savings Program to better enable population management and cost-effective medicine, Mark Callahan, M.D., CEO of Mount Sinai Care and FierceHealthcare Editorial Advisory Board member, told FierceHealthcare in a previous interview.

Last year, Hackensack (N.J.) University Medical Center's accountable care program saved roughly $16 million for 11,000 Medicare members, Bloomberg noted. ACO participant Coastal Carolina Health Care saw its monthly ER visits drop from 521 in April 2012 to 340 in February.

Moreover, hospitals are making progress thanks to the Affordable Care Act's penalties for excessive readmissions. Readmission rates dropped to 17.8 percent in the fourth quarter of 2012, down from between 18.5 percent and 19.5 percent during the past five years, FierceHealthcare previously reported.

However, the Bloomberg article raises questions as to whether the benefits of healthcare reforms, such as the accountable care program, outweigh the costs.

"The handful of programs that work--and they're just a handful--you have to get nurses and other people like that in front of the patient, not through electronic means, working with the patient, coaching, hovering. That's what it takes and it's very costly," Lawton Robert Burns, the chairman of the Health Management Department at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, told Bloomberg.

And as healthcare reform funnels patients to hospitals and hospital-owned practices through accountable care organizations, physician productivity will decrease while costs will rise, a resident fellow at the conservative American Enterprise Institute contended in a recent Wall Street Journal commentary.

 For more:
- here's the Bloomberg article