Changes to govt. health care could save on costs, UnitedHealth Group reports

A report by UnitedHealth Group said the U.S. could reduce spending on Medicare and Medicaid by doing a better job of coordinating patient care, particularly for those with chronic illnesses such as diabetes.

The report's author, Simon Stevens, said the U.S. could save more than half a trillion dollars over a decade by changing how it cares for patients on those government health plans, which provide coverage for the elderly, disabled, and low income.

"It's a false dichotomy to think that the only way of saving Medicare and Medicaid is by either cutting benefits or cutting reimbursements for hospitals and doctors," Stevens said.

The report suggests a number of changes, including better coordinating care for patients with chronic and costly illnesses such as diabetes. Stevens said while budget talks in Washington focused on cutting benefits or doctor's pay to rein in program costs, there is another way.

"There is a third opportunity, which is to modernize the way care is delivered and get better value from the billions of dollars that are already being spent," Stevens said.

Some of these initiatives are already underway in the federal health care law but Stevens said the law does not encourage their widespread adoption across the U.S.

UnitedHealth Group, a Minnetonka-based health insurer, based its findings on its own data from serving people enrolled in government plans and large employer health plans.

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