Medicare Studies Cost of Long-Term Acute Care in Santa Cruz County
Health Services Advisory Group -- California's Medicare quality improvement organization -- is examining factors that have led to low spending on acute long-term care in Santa Cruz County and assessing whether the region's practices could be replicated around the U.S., HealthyCal reports.
Long-term acute care services help patients who require ongoing medical care but who are not sick enough for a traditional hospital.
According to preliminary CMS data, Santa Cruz spends slightly more than 10% of the national average on long-term acute care for Medicare beneficiaries. Long-term acute care in Santa Cruz County costs an average of $17 per capita, compared with the national average of $156 per capita.
Examining Reasons for Lower Spending
To ascertain why spending on long-term acute care is lower in Santa Cruz than in most U.S. counties, HSAG is collaborating with the Health Improvement Partnership of Santa Cruz County. The partnership has created a team of health care providers and community members to study the county's long-term acute care services.
Experts say that one possible reason for the lower costs is that the closest long-term acute care hospital is located in San Leandro, an hour away from Santa Cruz.
Robert Quinn -- medical director of rehabilitation services at Dominican Hospital -- said that the distance likely is a strong motivator for families to keep sick relatives at home.
However, Andrea Silvey -- chief quality improvement officer -- said that some communities without long-term acute care hospitals still have higher long-term acute care costs than Santa Cruz.
Experts say that while few Medicare beneficiaries living in Santa Cruz are using long-term acute care hospitals, many of them are using hospice and palliative care services. CMS data show that hospice is the only Medicare benefit where Santa Cruz surpasses average state and national costs per beneficiary.Lawrence deGhetaldi -- president of Palo Alto Medical Foundation's Santa Cruz division -- said, "This community is doing a heroic job with hospice and advance directives," adding that by providing palliative care early, county residents are living longer (Graebner, HealthyCal, 3/21). This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.