Sara Kliff: The Amazing News Buried Inside A 283-Page Medicare Report
This is arguably the most unexpected piece of news in the new Medicare Trustees report: the government’s hospital insurance program might be spending less money to cover more beneficiaries than it did a year ago. Medicare’s hospital insurance program — known to wonks as Medicare Part A — spent $266.8 billion covering 50.3 million people in 2012. In 2013, the the same program spent $266.2 billion to cover 51.9 million people. what’s definitely clear — and what’s driving this trend — is that Medicare is spending significantly less per person than they did two years ago.
And this report expects that trend to continue for another two years going forward. By 2015, the Medicare Trustees’ Report projects that the program will spend less per person on hospital care than it did in 2008. This doesn’t happen much in health care: not just slower growth, but the actual dollar amount spent on a given type of care dropping. The Affordable Care Act, for example, penalizes preventable readmissions — times when seniors turn up at the hospital a second time after something goes wrong during their first visit. Readmissions have been falling pretty steadily for the last few years, and those reductions could be showing up in the lower per-person spending.