KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Medicare Spends About As Much Screening For Breast Cancer As Treating It

Medicare spends $1 billion annually on breast cancer screening, a new study has found. Another report, this one from UnitedHealth, says changes to how the government coordinates patient care could save half a trillion dollars over a decade.

Reuters: Medicare Spends $1 Billion On Mammograms: Study
"It's known that we're spending over $1 billion on treating cancer, but we were surprised to find that we're also spending over $1 billion for screening," said Dr. Cary Gross, the study's lead author from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. Using a database of Medicare claims between 2006 to 2007, Gross and colleagues tracked about 137,000 women, who did not have breast cancer and who were over 66 years old, to see how much they spent on screening and initial treatment for breast cancer (Seaman, 1/8).

MPR News: 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. ... Stevens said while budget talks in Washington focused on cutting benefits or doctor's pay to rein in program costs, there is another way (Stawicki, 1/9).

And CMS released it's annual assessment of Medicare spending --

The Medicare NewsGroup: Medicare Sees 2011 Spending Spike While Overall Health Spending Hold Steady
Medicare spending rose an estimated 6.2 percent during 2011, driven by a big jump in payments to skilled nursing facilities, more spending at doctors’ offices and bigger outlays for Medicare Advantage plans, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) reported Monday in its annual survey of projected health spending. The report has projected figures for 2012 forward, and estimated figures for 2011 spending. Medicare's total outlays reached $554 billion in 2011, an increase of $32 billion from the previous year. The 6.2 percent growth in spending accelerated from an expansion of 4.2 percent in 2010 (Rosenblatt, 1/8).

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