Health Reform is Working

April 17, 2013 by InTouch Health

By fostering greater hospital partnership, the Affordable Care Act is already showing early signs of success. CMS notes that the national percentage of 30-day hospital readmissions – which was stubbornly stuck at

Health reform is providing both carrot and stick to make collaborative healthcare a reality.

19% for years – is finally starting to come down.  It’s now at 17.8%, and health reform and telemedicine deserve a lot of the credit.

Some telemedicine-based programs are getting far better results than the national average. For example, Geisinger Health Plan has implemented a telehealth program that has already cut hospital readmissions by a whopping 44%.

Obviously, the more collaboration between healthcare organizations, the better the results. Spurred by health reform, nearly 60% of hospitals are now part of a broader system. The ACA funded one of the most successful so far: 26 “Hospital Engagement Networks” (HENs) that work with more than 3,700 hospitals to coordinate patient care. According to the Advisory Board Company, the largest of the HENs has reduced its average 30-day readmission rate across 450 hospitals from 11.2% in 2010 to 10.2% by late 2012. That’s encouraging news for the folks in the Big Henhouse at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Last October, CMS began fining more than 2,000 hospitals with high readmission rates, imposing the maximum penalty of 1% in reduced Medicare reimbursements for 300 of them through the remainder of this year.

There are, of course, other factors driving hospitals to join larger systems: increasing margin pressures, plus the need to find economies of scale to improve care quality. But it’s clear that health reform is providing both carrots and sticks to make collaborative healthcare a reality.

If health reform and telemedicine continue to boost quality and rein in costs, it will be a nightmare for legislators who opposed them. Their biggest fear was that these things would actually work – and that people would love them so much that there would be no turning back.

As more success stories like these come rolling in, the president may soon be proud to call his program “Obamacare.”