6. Cost Effectiveness
The CARE Act requires that services be provided in a manner that is coordinated, cost effective, and ensures that Title II funds are the payer of last resort for HIV/AIDS services. A belief in the cost effectiveness of community-based, ambulatory HIV/AIDS services is at the core of the CARE Act. The underlying assumption is that CARE Act services reduce hospitalizations for persons living with HIV disease (PLWH) and are more cost effective than inpatient care. An important responsibility for CARE Act entities is to provide programs that make a difference in the most cost efficient manner.
Section 2613©(1)(D) states that a consortium, in order to receive assistance from the State, shall prepare an application that, in part, (D) demonstrates that the consortium has created a mechanism to evaluate periodically—(ii) the cost-effectiveness of the mechanisms employed by the consortium to deliver comprehensive care;
Section 2616(e) states, in part, that grants to provide HIV treatments may be expended
(1)… to provide the therapeutics described in such subsection by paying on behalf of individuals with HIV disease the costs of purchasing or maintaining health insurance or plans whose coverage includes a full range of such therapeutics and appropriate primary care services.
(2) LIMITATION.—The authority established in paragraph (1) applies only to the extent that, for the fiscal year involved, the costs of the health insurance or plans to be purchased or maintained under such paragraph do not exceed the costs of otherwise providing therapeutics described in subsection (a).
Section 2617(b) states that State applications for Title II funding shall contain “a detailed description of the HIV-related services provided in the State to individuals and families with HIV disease during the year preceding the year for which the grant is requested, and the number of individuals and families receiving such services, that shall include—
(B) an accounting of the amount of funds that the State has expended for such services and programs during the year preceding the year for which the grant is requested; and
(C) information concerning—
(ii) the average cost of providing each category of HIV-related health services and the extent to which such cost is paid by third-party payors; and
Section 2620© states that State applications for supplemental grants for “emerging communities” that are not eligible for Title I grants shall contain a detailed description of how the State will use the funds and that it include “(4) a demonstration of the ability of the State to utilize such supplemental financial resources in a manner that is immediately responsive and cost effective;”
Public Law 101-381, Section 2 provides as follows. “It is the purpose of this Act to provide emergency assistance to localities that are disproportionately affected by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus epidemic and to make financial assistance available to States and other public or private nonprofit entities to provide for the development, organization, coordination and operation of more effective and cost efficient systems for the delivery of essential services to individuals and families with HIV disease.”
Title II grantees should be able to compare the relative costs of providing a specific service among different providers. This necessitates having service standards, service units, and unit costs for each service. Quality of service is also a factor in determining cost effectiveness and needs to be considered both in selecting providers and in monitoring quality management programs.
Planning councils need cost-effectiveness data to determine how to prioritize services and allocate funds. This is closely tied to outcomes evaluation in that services with better outcomes may be more costly but nonetheless more cost effective when outcomes are considered. Also important to consider is the way services are provided. For example, bus passes may be cheaper but not as effective in assuring access and maintenance in care as taxi vouchers.
Cost effectiveness includes two interrelated dimensions. outcomes and costs. CARE Act programs should accomplish positive results (be effective) and do so at a reasonable cost (be cost effective). Cost-effective programs do not necessarily lead to cost savings, although they do provide good value for the money. Cost effectiveness can be described in several ways.
Cost-effectiveness approaches may be used to evaluate any service, activity, or process, so long as it is possible to measure outcomes and determine costs. Cost-effectiveness methods can be used to evaluate.
Among the greatest challenges of cost-effectiveness evaluation are the following.
Despite these challenges, approaches to cost-effectiveness evaluation are being developed and improved. Materials are available from HRSA/HAB to calculate the unit costs of HIV/AIDS services, and many areas have developed unit-cost determination procedures. Measurement of service outcomes is greatly facilitated by the development of standards of care and indicators addressing expected or desired service results.
Unit cost is the cost to produce or deliver one unit or product or service. Unit costs have many uses. They can provide the basis for cost comparisons across services, providers, or geographic areas, and provide a benchmark for performance measurement. They are the basis for contract payment where reimbursement is based on units of service delivered. Unit costs are also an essential component of cost-effectiveness analysis. However, unit-cost data are descriptive information; used alone, they do not measure efficiency, effectiveness, quality, or content of services. They cannot easily be compared across agencies unless standards have been developed and implemented, since if more than one provider delivers the same categories of service, the intensity of service, model of care, and quality of care may be different.
Analysis of trends in unit costs within a single agency can provide management insights. An increase in costs over time may signal an increase in resource costs, a decline in productivity, or a change in the content or quality of the service provided. Changes in unit costs flag these situations, but do not explain what is occurring. It is sometimes valuable to review the cost per client—rather than the unit cost—for a particular service. Viewed as a unit cost, counseling may cost an acceptable $50 an hour, but if the typical client requires 100 hours of counseling, the cost per client would be an unacceptable $5,000. For planning bodies allocating CARE Act funds, cost per client may be a more useful data source than unit costs.
There are five basic steps to determining unit costs.
For a more comprehensive discussion on determining average unit costs refer to the references provided.
|Technical assistance through HAB’s Technical Assistance Contract is available for developing standards of care, unit costs, data collection systems, and outcome effectiveness procedures—all of which are the building blocks for evaluating cost effectiveness. HAB has also developed several manuals and guides to aid in cost-effectiveness evaluation.|
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB). Determining the Unit Cost of Services. A Guide for Estimating the Cost of Services Funded by the Ryan White CARE Act of 1990. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 1993.
HRSA, HAB. Tools and Strategies to Assure the Cost and Outcome Effectiveness of CARE Act Services. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Science and Epidemiology, August 1997.
Additional Resources on Cost Effectiveness and Outcomes Effectiveness
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), HIV/AIDS Bureau (HAB). Outcomes Evaluation Technical Assistance Guide. Getting Started. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001.
HRSA, HAB. Outcomes Evaluation TA Guide. Primary Medical Care Outcomes. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2000.
HRSA, HAB. Outcomes Evaluation TA Guide. Case Management Outcomes. Rockville, MD. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2001.
HRSA, HAB. “The Resource Gap. Measuring Success. Evaluation, Outcomes, and Quality of HIV Care. HRSA CAREAction.
Evaluation Monograph Series. HRSA, HIV/AIDS Bureau, Office of Science and Epidemiology. Includes:
Choosing and Using an External Evaluator, Report #1
Using Data to Assess HIV/AIDS Service Needs. A Guide for Ryan White CARE Act Planning Groups, Report #2.
Cost and Performance-Based Contracting. A Guide for Ryan White CARE Act Grantees, Report #3.
A Practical Guide to Evaluation and Evaluation Terms for Ryan White CARE Act Grantees, Report #4.
An Approach to Evaluation HAART Utilization & Outcomes in CARE Act-Funded Clinics, Report #5.
Delivering HIV Services to Vulnerable Populations. What Have We Learned? Report #6.