Squandering Medicare’s Money

Medicare spends a fortune each year on procedures that have no proven benefit and should not be covered. According to Rita F. Redberg, writing in The New York Times, examples abound:

  • Medicare pays for routine screening colonoscopies in patients over 75 even though the United States Preventive Services Task Force … advises against them (and against any colonoscopies for patients over 85). In 2009, Medicare paid doctors more than $100 million for nearly 550,000 screening colonoscopies; around 40 percent were for patients over 75.
  • The task force recommends against screening for prostate cancer in men 75 and older, and screening for cervical cancer in women 65 and older who have had a previous normal Pap smear, but Medicare spent more than $50 million in 2008 on such screenings.
  • Two recent randomized trials found that patients receiving two popular procedures for vertebral fractures, kyphoplasty and vertebroplasty, experienced no more relief than those receiving a sham procedure … Nevertheless, Medicare pays for 100,000 of these procedures a year, at a cost of around $1 billion.
  • Multiple clinical trials have shown that cardiac stents are no more effective than drugs or lifestyle changes in preventing heart attacks or death. Yet one study estimated that Medicare spends $1.6 billion on drug-coated stents … annually.
  • A recent study found that one-fifth of all implantable cardiac defibrillators were placed in patients who, according to clinical guidelines, will not benefit from them. But Medicare pays for them anyway, at a cost of $50,000 to $100,000 per device implantation.

Comments (4)

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  1. Bruce says:

    Medicare’s money is being squandered? I’m shocked. Shocked.

  2. Devon Herrick says:

    The nature of third-party payment is such that providers have little incentive to follow U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommendations that suggest little benefit for older patients since: 1) patient aren’t paying for the procedure and probably derive a little bit of mental confort from them; 2) Doctors and hospitals are not competing on price so wasteful expenditures increases rather than decreases profits.

  3. Kennedy says:

    So the government is wasting and mismanaging money… why am I not surprised?

  4. Brian Williams. says:

    I’m sure this will be solved when they raise taxes on the rich.