small ideas 4-7

blog

January 15, 2014

Small Ideas for Saving Big Health Care Dollars (No. 4-7)

Every Wednesday this month, the RAND Blog will highlight a few small ideas for saving big health care dollars. Last week, we introduced the project, as well as small ideas No. 1-3, which ranged from changes in anesthesia personnel to shifting to lower-cost antibiotics for child ear infections.

With the United States spending $2.8 trillion per year on health care, all options for cutting costs should be considered.

Thinking small could save big.

— Pete Wilmoth

Small Idea #4

Shift care from emergency departments to retail clinics

Rationale

For certain medical services, retail clinics—which operate out of pharmacies, grocery stores, and “big box” stores—offer lower-cost care with comparable quality. Roughly 8 percent of emergency department visits could take place at retail clinics.

Estimated annual savings1

$3.5 billion

Feasibility

  • Political: Medium
  • Operational: Medium

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Small Idea #5

Eliminate copayments for higher-risk patients on cholesterol-lowering drugs

Rationale

Reducing copayments can motivate patients to comply with drug therapy and manage treatment of chronic illness, thereby reducing hospitalizations and emergency department visits.

Estimated annual savings1

$1.3 billion

Feasibility

  • Political: High
  • Operational: High

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Small Idea #6

Increase use of $4 generic drugs

Rationale

A small percentage of Medicare beneficiaries use $4 drug programs. Policies could encourage use among those who have not been participating in these programs or among those who could save the most.

Estimated annual savings1

$5.9 billion

Feasibility

  • Political: High
  • Operational: Medium

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Small Idea #7

Reduce Medicare Part D use of brand-name prescription drugs by diabetes patients

Rationale

Medicare beneficiaries with diabetes use two to three times more brand-name drugs, at a substantial excess cost, compared to similar patients in the Veterans Administration (VA).

Estimated annual savings1

$1.5 billion

Feasibility

  • Political: Medium
  • Operational: Medium

Learn More

1All estimates are in 2012 dollars.