Study: Spending more money on Medicare beneficiaries may not improve care quality

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Spending more money to care for Medicare beneficiaries does not necessarily create better care, but rather the opposite, a state-by-state study in the journal Health Affairs reports. The study says giving consumers access to more general practitioners may improve healthcare quality.

"Higher spending is associated with lower quality of care," wrote Katherine Baicker and Amitabh Chandra, assistant professors of economics at Dartmouth University. "Encouraging greater access to general practitioners, or involving specialists in the provision of effective care, could improve the overall quality of care received by elderly Americans."

The authors calculated Medicare reimbursement per beneficiary at the state level using Medicare claims data from the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. They included data for fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries, and took into account differences in state price levels.

They then compared four quality measures: beta-blockers administered at discharge after heart attack, mammography every two years for women aged 65-69, hemoglobin monitoring for diabetics, and annual eye exams for diabetics. The professors said spending on these measures varied widely between states.

To see the study, go to: http://content.healthaffairs.org/cgi/content/abstract/hlthaff.w4.184.