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Study: Collaboration between docs, insurers lowers cost of cancer care

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A UnitedHealth Group study found the cost of cancer care dropped when doctors were paid a lump sum per case and were showed how they compared with others treating the same cancers.

The Minnetonka-based company says even with an increase in drug costs, total costs went down by a third.  The study tracked not only costs but also 60 quality of care measures.

The study's lead author, UnitedHealth Senior Vice President Lee Newcomer, says the collaboration between doctors and the insurer made a major difference.

"Traditionally when a health plan gets together with a physician group, they're negotiating a contract and that's not a very friendly environment," she said. "But here, we were all trying to get the same thing accomplished and that was improve patient care; and the incentives were aligned for both of us.  The better the patient care got, the more each of us would win."  

The study was limited to breast, colon and lung cancer patients and was published in the peer-reviewed Journal of Oncology Practice.