Unnecessary Care

As many as 42% of Medicare beneficiaries in 2009 underwent unnecessary medical treatments, costing the federal government as much as $8.5 billion, according to a study published yesterday in JAMA Internal Medicine. The analysis is the first large-scale examination into what Medicare spends on procedures that are widely considered to be unnecessary, such as advanced imaging for lower back pain and placing stents in patients with controlled heart disease. (KHN)

Comments (14)

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  1. Jessica says:

    I don’t understand how any of these screenings and procedures are low-value? Just because they may cost less doesn’t mean that they aren’t saving lives.

  2. Gary M. Higgenbotham says:

    Hi Jessica. I like your point, but if you read the article more closely, you will see that the study identifies “specific services to limit and can characterize low-value care even among the most efficient providers.”

  3. Anne says:

    I think this is yet another symptom of our broken medical malpractice system. Of course doctors are ordering unnecessary screenings. Even if 99.99% of patients don’t actually need the procedure, it’s worth it to them if it ensures they don’t get sued by the 1 out of 1,000 who does benefit.

    • RSW says:

      Not to mention that they get paid for conducting the procedure in the first place. From the doctor’s point of view, ordering it even if it’s not really necessary is a win-win.

      • Trent says:

        Absolutely, but wouldn’t an ideal system be where every procedure can be done but at a smaller cost?

  4. Elizabeth says:

    “Forty-two percent of beneficiaries received at least one such service, costing Medicare $8.5 billion, or 2.7 percent of spending.”

    That’s so much waste.

    • Ted says:

      Right? If we know these procedures generally don’t help people, why are we bothering to do them?

      • Lacey says:

        Because when the government is footing the bill, who cares how much it costs?

      • Nancy says:

        Because the medical field has been reduced to poking things with a stick until we figure it out – and even after we figure it out – so we can say we did everything we could and avoid lawsuits.

      • Mary says:

        This is why patient care needs to be more individualized.

        • Ted says:

          I completely agree. If patients were footing the bill for these procedures, they’d want a larger say.