Spine, total joint bundles lead to cost savings of 10.7%, study finds

Practice Management

When cost-sharing is waived for patients using bundled payment programs for spinal fusion and total joint replacement, surgery costs can decrease by an average of $4,229, or 10.7 percent, according to a study by nonprofit organization Rand Corp.

The study, published March 1 in Health Affairs, examined three procedures for commercially insured patients: spinal fusion, bariatric surgery, and total knee and hip replacement. The study included 2,372 procedures.

As an incentive, out-of-pocket costs were waived for the 21 percent of patients in the program, with patient payments decreasing by $498, a 27.7 percent reduction, according to researchers.

Spinal fusion procedures saw the biggest cost savings, followed by joint replacement surgery and bariatric surgery. After implementation, 23 percent of spinal fusions, 16 percent of joint replacement and 30 percent of bariatric surgeries were administered through the program.

"Our results demonstrate that direct payments programs that use bundled payment mechanisms can have financial benefits for employers and patients," Christopher Whaley, lead author of the study, said in a March 1 news release. "Whether these results remain localized to a small number of 'big ticket' procedures or expand to broader patient populations and procedure types remains to be seen."

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