Analysis: Focus on quality of care, not geographic variances to justify Medicare reforms

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Policy makers should focus less on geographic variances and more on the quality of care when working on Medicare payment reform, a new analysis finds.

Traditionally, there have been geographic variances in fee-for-service Medicare spending and service utilization, which was bolstered by the belief that the quality of care would vary by region. A report by the National Institute for Health Care Reform, however, says this is not as true as has been thought. Instead, it would be more productive to focus “on broader payment reform and oversight that can drive greater efficiency in health care delivery in all geographic areas.”

“While geographic variation research has pushed the twin issues of uneven care and costs to the fore, it's ultimately the broader healthcare system — not geography — that should be the policy focus,” the analysis states.

The Institute of Medicine is conducting its own nationwide study on healthcare spending variations for people receiving Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.

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