How Medicaid can save money and lives: Tennessee tries mind-body integration

Tennessee's Medicaid program has launched an effort to better integrate patients' physical and mental healthcare, with the aim of saving state and federal money and improving patient care, according to NPR.

The program, known as Tennessee Health Link, is intended for patients whose physical health issues compound their mental health issues, or vice versa.

"Essentially, they don't get better either behaviorally or medically, because their untreated behavioral health illness continues to prevent them from following through on the medical recommendations," Roger Kathol, MD, a psychiatrist, internist and health consultant who specializes in behavioral and physical health integration, told NPR

Tennessee Health Link paid nearly $7 million in bonuses to mental health providers who guided patients through their physical healthcare needs in 2017, the program's first year. The bonuses provide an incentive for providers to combine physical and mental healthcare, which typically require two different entities to pay the bills. Providers receive up to 25 percent of the amount they save the Medicaid program.

Studies have shown this kind of integration could save Tennessee's Medicaid program hundreds of dollars per patient annually. The program could also save lives, as many studies suggest patients with both physical and mental illnesses tend to die young.

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