Payor maps out $540B in savings for U.S. healthcare system
A report from UnitedHealth Group's Center for Health Reform and Modernization found that the U.S. government could save $540 billion in healthcare costs over the next decade if existing programs that have improved healthcare quality and slowed medical spending are applied more broadly.

The research provides policymakers and healthcare leaders with "real-world" savings options, based on data and results from a selection of UnitedHealth programs. The payor said that the report is being shared with members of Congress and senior Obama administration officials, and is intended as a constructive contribution to the national health reform debate--not a complete inventory of the ideas UnitedHealth has for how costs could be saved and quality improved.

"Our data and experience show that--working in partnership with physicians, hospitals and other care providers--in practice it is possible to get more value out of healthcare spending so as to fund increased access to high quality care," said UnitedHealth Executive Vice President Simon Stevens, who directs the center.

The Minneapolis-based payor said that the report focuses on possible savings in future federal spending that could help fund healthcare reform legislation through either existing commercially insured or Medicare programs.

The 15 cost-containment options are in four categories: incentivizing beneficiaries to use high-quality care providers; reducing avoidable and inappropriate care; supporting and incentivizing physicians to deliver high-quality appropriate care; and applying evidence-based standards to reimbursement policies.  

For example, the report projects that over the next 10 years approximately $55 billion could be saved by reducing seniors' avoidable readmissions to hospitals partly by providing transitional care support. Also, $37 billion could be saved through voluntary programs that help seniors choose to receive care from high quality and efficient care providers. And, $166 billion could be saved by reducing the need for people living in nursing homes to be admitted to a hospital. 

The report follows an agreement between several health industry groups, including the America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) trade group, the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Service Employees International Union, who were charged by the Obama Administration to find ways to reduce future cost growth in the healthcare sector by $2 trillion over 10 years.