A renewed focus on preventative healthcare

(CBS News) The Affordable Care Act enacted by Congress and under review at the Supreme Court provides, among other things, for so-called accountable care organizations.

CBS News correspondent Jeff Glor reports that they are brand new this year, and the organizations are projected by the Obama administration to save up to $960 million over the next three years.

In the basement of this Chicago clinic, nurse Gwile Llyod is helping patients fight obesity, diabetes and, above all, frequent trips to the ER.

Llyod is a case manager for Advocate Health, an accountable care organization, or ACO. It's a new type of healthcare system aimed at lowering cost by aggressively monitoring patient health.

"Basically what we do with our patents is we take a hands-on approach to coordinate all phases of care," Lloyd said.

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She tracks about 150 high-risk patients, making sure they get to appointments, take their medication, and understand their illness.

"By paying someone like me they actually save a lot of money. If a patient goes to the ER two or three times, you've already paid me," Lloyd said.

Chronically ill patients like Leshae Baker account for about 80 percent of medical costs. Baker suffers from diabetes and hypertension.

"I guess the medical profession is finally getting wise and saying look, we need someone to check on these people and see what their needs are," Baker said.

If ACOs can keep patients like Baker out of the hospital and healthy, they get to keep a portion of the money they save.

"When I talk to employers across the country, health care is usually one of their top if not their top issue that they are trying to address," said John Zern with Aon-Hewett healthcare consultants.

Zern says that although ACOs are still getting off the ground, their cost-saving potential has companies taking notice.

"Any delivery mechanism that helps us really attack that challenge, and reduce healthcare cost is a great thing," Zern said.

For patients like Baker, the ACO model is already working.

Her health has improved, all because, she says, someone is finally on her case.

"Some of us know better, and we just don't do better. So when you have someone that's giving you a helping hand and a push, then I'm saying, good, then I can live till I'm 100 years old," Baker said.

  • Jeff Glor

    Jeff Glor was named anchor of the Sunday edition of the "CBS Evening News" in January 2012 and Special Correspondent for "CBS This Morning" in November 2011.

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