The Medicare system is spending “significantly” more on post-acute care for patients when compared to those who have commercial insurance, despite it not being clinically more beneficial to do so, a new study has found. 

Despite the spending discrepency, there were no significant differences in hospital readmission rates between the commercial insurance and Medicare-covered groups, University of Michigan researchers discovered. In response, they issued a veiled warning that providers should not be looking to pad their bottom lines by keeping residents longer than necessary.

“When we looked at just the length of stay of [skilled nursing facilities] while comparing patients, [we found] longer average length of stay for Medicare patients,” Scott Regenbogen, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Michigan, told McKnight’s. “There may be clinically unwarranted longer lengths of stay among Medicare beneficiaries.”

His team used analyzed data from more than 25,000 patients throughout the state. They used a regression discontinuity design to compare post-acute care use and costs between seniors in their 60s who have traditional Medicare coverage or private insurance. 

They also compared post-acute care received at skilled nursing facilities, at home and at inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation facilities. 

Based on the findings, Regenbogen suggested post-acute care providers may want to be “really judicious with the volume of services they provide and conclusive of which of the post-acute care services are translating to better post-hospital outcomes.”

The study was published in the September issue of Health Affairs