Instead of making separate payments to hospitals and doctors for care delivered to patients in heart and joint replacement procedures at Hillcrest Medical Center in Tulsa, Okla., Medicare is instead bundling them together, USA Today reported Monday.
Government officials say combining such payments could be a way to encourage hospitals and doctors to work together to hold down costs and improve care. They contend that the idea helps move medical billing away from the traditional "fee-for-service system" in which providers are paid separately for individual services.
USA Today says that arrangement has received much criticism during the U.S. healthcare reform debate from analysts who say it leads to doctors and hospitals delivering more -- but not better -- care.
"The current payment system is not designed to drive efficiency," Harold Miller, chief executive of the Network for Regional Healthcare Improvement in Pittsburgh, told the newspaper.
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