The latest issue of Health Affairs is out and the Population Health Blog couldn't stay away. 

Three interesting articles:

The United States healthcare system has been criticized for spending too much of its treasure for too little in the way of outcomes.  Well, it's not that simple.  Stevens and colleagues in this just published Health Affairs study examined global cancer spending and found that increased spending on treatment correlated with drops in cancer mortality. From 1995 to 2007, the U.S. experienced a growth of $18,000 per cancer patient and dropped mortality among amenable cancers from 55 to 45 per 100,000.  Other than Japan and Finland (which benefit from already low levels of cancer plus sociodemographic factors like this and this), no other country has achieved that level of success.

In other words, you get what you pay for.  And when it comes to cancer, residents of the U.S. are not only paying, but getting a lot.

And speaking of payment, the same issue of Health Affairs has an article on multipayer medical home initiatives. The Population Health Blog didn't know this, but 17 of these initiatives have been launched since 2008.  Most were launched by states, not only because they controlled Medicaid's participation, but because they could blunt antitrust concerns. Challenges included agreeing on the criteria for provider participation, standardizing the payment models, and establishing criteria for success. What's more, the political landscape (health reform) and science (risk stratification, for example) has changed over the years. .

In other words, there is still no single approach to the medical home. When you've seen one statewide medical home initiative, you've seen one medical home initiative.

And speaking of initiatives, Geisinger's medical home program was also featured in Health Affairs. This observational study found that its care management nurses were independently associated with lower health care costs for as many as seven years.  That's good news.

But, the PHB knows that the Geisinger Health System is comprised of provider entities (such as its hospitals and the clinic) as well as a managed care insurance plan called Geisinger Health Plan (GHP). According to the article, "GHP hires, trains and manages the embedded case managers, partly because practices often lack resources to support such capabilities."

In other words, since.....

1) reducing health care costs will only benefit the holder of risk (the insurer) and

2) typical primary care settings lack the resources to change their approach to care,

....the real lesson of Geisinger's ProvenCare is that ownership of the medical home by commercial health insurers is an important option in assuring its success.

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