State health practices held up as national model

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The new Senate health care reform bill, released yesterday by Sen. Max Baucus, contains key provisions from proven success in Colorado.

U.S. Sen. Michael Bennet said he included provisions in the bill that will improve patient care and lower cost using a “proven care transitions model” developed in Colorado.

“Colorado has incredible examples of how our nation should coordinate patient care,” he said. “Across our nation too many seniors are being readmitted to hospitals, even though it often is completely preventable. This bill would bring Colorado’s transitions of care model to the national stage.”

Bringing down the rate of hospital readmission is an “important step” in lowering health care costs, said Baucus, who is also the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.

For every five Medicare patients released from the hospitals, one is readmitted within a month, and more than three-fourths of these readmissions are preventable. The cycle of rehospitalization costs Medicare more than $17 billion every year.

High rates also put an increased burden on providers.

But Colorado has developed transitional care programs that lower return hospitalization rates. Dr. Eric Coleman, professor of medicine at the University of Colorado, developed the Care Transitions Intervention, a program that helps patients take ownership of their care and regain independence.

The program reduced readmission rates by as much as 50 percent in some communities. A similar plan by Rocky Mountain Health Plans makes sure seniors receive follow-up care. Their program leads the nation with a readmission rate of 1.8 percent, lower than the national average of 10 percent.

The new bill establishes a community care transitions program, which includes a three-year pilot program for Medicare. The program would fund eligible hospitals and community-based organization to provide transitional care services to Medicare beneficiaries. Hospitals would be chosen based on high readmission rates, disproportionately treated medically underserved populations, rural and small hospitals.

The program is expected to cost $500 million during the three-year period.