The Colorado Department of Health Care Policy and Financing reduced Medicaid expenses by $20 million with a new program and returned nearly $3 million to state and federal taxpayers.

It’s the first year for the Accountable Care Collaborative program,  designed to improve client health while lower health costs. The legislature passed the law in 2009 with the expectation it would not only pay for itself, but reduce costs in the future.

The program focused on reducing hospital readmissions, reducing emergency room use and decreasing high-cost imaging.

This year, there was an 8.6 percent decrease in readmission among ACC clients statewide. In the region that includes El Paso, Teller and Elbert counties, there was a 30 percent reduction in readmissions.

Statewide there was a 1 percent increase in patients going to ERs, but that was only a .23 percent increase for ACC clients. In region 7, about 23 percent of emergency department visitors are actually urgent care visits.

There was a 3.3 percent decrease in high cost imaging and a 3 percent decrease for El Paso County.

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When ore people are enrolled in the program, the department will see more outcomes like this one, said Executive Director Sue Birch.

“These early results support our belief the interventions we’re doing are working, and with more time to increase ACC enrollment, we expect to have greater impact,” she said.

The program now has 132,000 Medicaid clients throughout the state, about 21 percent of the total.

“We hope to expand and look at how we can integrate care, improve health outcomes and ultimately be a healthier Colorado,” Birch said. “We anticipate there will be more savings as we enroll more clients into the ACC where their care can be better coordinated.”