Medicare analysis shows promising progress and results

For the past few years, increasing healthcare costs, an aging population and subpar outcomes have led to concerns about spending and its effect on the economy. Healthcare represents nearly 20 percent of the U.S.’s gross domestic product, and yet the return on investment has lagged other developed countries.

Still, a recent analysis painted a more optimistic view on Medicare, a program that is divisive among politicians, healthcare professionals and the general public. Lead researcher Harlan Krumholz, MD, of Yale University and his colleagues found that all-cause mortality rates, hospitalization rates and expenditures per Medicare fee-for-service beneficiary decreased from 1999 to 2013.

“We hoped to find that all the efforts over the last decade or so were paying off – but we did not anticipate such an amazing result,” Krumholz wrote in an email to Cardiovascular Business.

Krumholz explained that the researchers were interested in determining how changing policies, an emphasis on quality of care and efforts to promote healthy behaviors and communities have paid off during this century. They evaluated the Medicare denominator files and identified more than 60 million people who were enrolled in Medicare for at least one month from January 1999 through December 2013.

For the past six months of the Medicare beneficiaries’ lives, the number of hospitalizations, percentage of beneficiaries with at least one hospitalization and inflation-adjusted inpatient expenditures all decreased during that time period.

Although Krumholz could not identify the reasons for the improvements in Medicare, he was encouraged with the program’s progress.

“It shows that the increasing costs, at least for that we measured, are returning good results,” Krumholz wrote. “Costs are still going up in Medicare, in part because of our success as people are living longer and more people are being covered – and with the demographics, the baby boomers are still entering Medicare. But what’s good here is that inpatient costs are dropping.”

-Tim Casey
Executive Editor - Cardiovascular Business