Thursday, January 28, 2010

Health Care Reform and Palliative Care.

Tim Cousounis at Palliative Care Success looks at the reasons why Palliative care, though cost saving and vital to good end of life care, is not likely to expand at a great rate any time soon:

Why are we not likely to see the influence of palliative care advanced during the health reform period? Two reasons leap to mind.
One, hospitals and hospices are the most prominent, and frequent, sponsors of palliative care programs, and we know what’s happening to their reimbursement (it's getting squeezed, with no end in sight). So, as these provider organizations are forced to tighten their belts, is it reasonable to expect (especially in light of the heightened priority on patient safety ) hospitals to increase their financial support of palliative care services? Furthermore, it’s unlikely that the financial performance of hospices will dramatically improve anytime soon. So, we shouldn’t expect a legion of hospices across the nation committing greater resources to palliative care services. It’s not that hospital and hospice executives are tone-deaf to palliative care. It’s just that these executives are faced with budgetary trade-offs and palliative care is not (yet) a high priority.
Two, primary care continues to be undervalued within the American medical system. Will these prevailing views change? Of course. Anytime soon? Unlikely. American primary care is in shambles, and it is now clear that it will not be viable in the future unless significant changes occur in our national attitude about its value and in the way we pay for it. While in other developed nations, 70-80 percent of all physicians are generalists and 20-30 percent are specialists, in America the ratio is reversed, the result of a payment system that has evolved to reward expensive care and penalize proactive management, even though the data are unequivocal that more palliative care (according to the Dartmouth Medical Atlas) within a community results in lower costs and better late-life care.

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December 2, 2010 at 6:25 PM  

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