Health care 'homes' save Minnesota $1 billion

The reform strategy asks clinics to take more responsibility for managing patients' health

Clinics that take more responsibility for their patients' health and health habits outperformed other primary care clinics in Minnesota and saved government programs more than $1 billion over five years, a University of Minnesota analysis concluded.

The analysis, released Tuesday, validated Minnesota's decision in 2008 to offer additional funding to clinics that become certified "health care homes," meaning they manage patients' overall care and provide counseling and resources to chronically ill patients needing extra help.

A patient receiving primary care from a health care home was less likely to need a lengthy hospital stay between 2010 and 2014, and only rang up $7,216 in medical expenses per year, the analysis found. A patient receiving traditional primary care cost $7,946 per year, which was 9 percent greater.

"You save one hospitalization, you save a lot of resources," said Dr. Ed Ehlinger, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Health.

Minnesota went "all in" on the concept of health care homes before it became a staple recommendation of the federal Affordable Care Act, said Douglas Wholey, the university health policy professor who led the analysis.

Minnesota now has 361 certified health care homes, or 54 percent of the primary care clinics in the state.

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