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Study Finds Limited Reduction in Inpatient Surgical Spending for Medicare ACOs

A new study, published in Annals of Surgery, sought to evaluate whether hospital participation in accountable care organizations (ACOs) is associated with reduced Medicare spending for inpatient surgery. Researchers used 100% Medicare claims from 2010 to 2014 for patients aged 65 to 99 years undergoing 6 common elective surgical procedures [abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) repair, colectomy, coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), hip or knee replacement, or lung resection]. They compared total Medicare payments for 30-day surgical episodes, payments for individual components of care (index hospitalization, readmissions, physician services, and postacute care), and clinical outcomes for patients treated at MSSP ACO hospitals versus matched controls at non-ACO hospitals. The study concluded although Medicare ACOs have had success reducing spending for medical care, they have not had similar success with surgical spending. Given that surgical care accounts for 30% of total health care costs, ACOs and policymakers must pay greater attention to reducing surgical expenditures.

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