Spend less to get better healthcare

Surprise: regions where medical spending is high are often giving poorer care.
Healthcare - cost is not quality

Rapidly rising healthcare costs pose a serious threat to most families over the next ten years. Can we take advantage of the wide variance of medical costs across the country?

Medicare keeps statistics for its 45 million enrollees (a proxy for the whole population). Average spending per person was $25,000 in 2001-2005, but over $36,000 in New Jersey and DC and under $18,000 in Idaho, Montana, Utah, and N. Dakota.

So it would make sense to live in a low-cost area, right?

But hey, would I want less spent on my family’s care? Doesn’t that mean less care, older technology, lower skills?

Turns out the opposite is true.

“In a 2003 study, a Dartmouth team . . . found that patients in higher-spending regions received sixty per cent more care than elsewhere. They got more frequent tests and procedures, more visits with specialists, and more frequent admission to hospitals. Yet they did no better than other patients, whether this was measured in terms of survival, their ability to function, or satisfaction with the care they received. If anything, they seemed to do worse.”

There is a lot of evidence that higher spending comes not from better treatment but from over-treatment, which can hurt, not help, your health.

“That’s because nothing in medicine is without risks. Complications can arise from hospital stays, medications, procedures, and tests, and when these things are of marginal value the harm can be greater than the benefits.”

Conclusion: there are two likely benefits of living in an area with lower healthcare spending: lower costs and better care. And you can see both cost and quality, town by town across America, in our here-To-Live reports.

(Quotations above are from a New Yorker article on the subject. If you want a sordid glimpse of what is driving American families’ medical costs, take a few minutes to read it.)

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