Children with life-threatening illnesses who are enrolled in Partners for Children, a Medi-Cal pilot program, spent less time in the hospital and had lower health care costs than before they joined the program, according to a study by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Medi-Cal is California's Medicaid program.
Background on Program
In 2010, the state opened the program to more than 135 families covered by Medi-Cal in 11 counties.
Individuals up to 21 years old who had been diagnosed with life-threatening illnesses, such as cystic fibrosis, cancer and neuromuscular and cardiac disorders, were eligible to participate in the program.
As part of the program, participants' families are assigned a liaison who coordinates the child's care and are given 24-hour access to a nurse familiar with the child's situation.
Typically, Medicaid beneficiaries are eligible for both treatment and hospice care only when a child has six months or less to live. However, the pilot program operates under a federal waiver that allows it to avoid this requirement.
The program is slated to end this year and likely will be renewed as a five-year program that could be expanded to 14 additional counties.
The study found that participants' medical costs decreased by 11% after enrolling in the program. On average, the program saved each participant $1,677 monthly, according to the study.
In addition, participating families reported increased confidence in caring for their children, as well as less stress and worry.
Ninety-seven percent of participants said they would recommend the program to others.
Devon Dabbs of Children's Hospice and Palliative Care Coalition, which initiated the study, said, "There is no life expectancy attached to this program, and it ensures [children] can stay at home, which is where most kids want to be," adding, "There's been a lot of anecdotal research and estimated savings, but this is the first time we can look at strong data and say here's what it costs us and here's what it's saving us" (Knoll, Los Angeles Times