Louisiana healthcare shaped by market more than patients

A new report by a state researcher concludes that medical care in Louisiana is being shaped to a large degree by market forces, such as the number of hospital beds available in a region. The researcher, David Wennberg, concluded that physicians were prescribing unnecessary treatments for chronically-ill patients, seemingly in response to external factors such as the supply of hospital beds, equipment and specialists available. He drew these conclusions after studying Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance data for the state. 

Wennberg's findings come as part of a larger effort by state officials and private groups to boost Louisiana's low population health rankings.  One new group, dubbed the Louisiana Health Care Quality Forum, plans to use the data Wennberg accessed on an ongoing basis to see whether physicians are following consistent practices in managing chronic illnesses like diabetes and high blood pressure.

Wennberg's report apparently didn't analyze how the market forces impact care in states other than Louisiana, but I'm sure researchers would find similar effects across the U.S. It'd be really interesting to find out how big a role those effects play nationally. Data, anyone?

To find out more about this research:
- read this Times-Picayune article

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