KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations

Docs, Hospitals ‘Wade Into World Of Social Services’

A pair of stories examines a program that provides services beyond medical care to improve people's well-being.

Marketplace: Saving Medicaid Money In Camden, N.J.
Around the country, hospitals and doctors are teaming up to better manage patients. They're trying to strip away wasteful practices like redundant testing. They’re doing so with what are known as accountable care organizations, or ACOs, and one in Camden, N.J., is drawing attention. The name may be jargon, but Mark Humowiecki with the Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers says the concept of an ACO is pretty basic: “Spend more money on primary care in order to keep people out of the hospitals (Gorenstein, 4/3).

Marketplace: What To Do When Healthcare Isn't Enough
And so we are beginning to see healthcare’s first, hesitant steps, where doctors and hospitals wade into the world of social services. ... Kaiser Permanente, one of the top health systems, has several pilot programs, including one in Oregon where ambulance staff act more like social workers – helping solve would-be domestic problems, and avoiding trips to the ER. ... In her book last fall, [Yale public health professor Elizabeth Bradley] and her co-author, Lauren Taylor, found people in countries that spend less on medical care but more on social services were healthier than people in the United States. ... Harvard health economist Amitabh Chandra has his doubts. Providers can only save money if they can pinpoint which patients truly benefit – a tall order – he says (Gorenstein, 4/3).

Earlier, related KHN story: New Jersey Program Finds Alternatives for ER 'Super Users' (Campbell, 3/9/2009).

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