Study: Spending more on sick elderly does not equal better outcomes

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Investing more money in chronically ill Medicare patients does not necessarily mean they will live longer, a new study suggests.

An examination of California hospitals found that outcomes for Medicare patients with any of a dozen chronic illnesses were similar among hospitals in Sacramento and Los Angeles despite the differences in care.

Patients in Los Angeles spent more than twice as many days in intensive care and had more than twice the number of doctor visits as those in Sacramento, the study said. Due in large part to the frequent hospital stays and doctor calls, Los Angeles facilities received an average of four times as much Medicare per patient as Sacramento facilities did.

Still, there was no evidence the quality of care was better, said Dr. Elliot Fisher, a co-author of the Dartmouth Medical School study. He concluded $1.7 billion in Medicare money had gone to waste.