Medicare spending varies widely from region to region

A new study concludes that Medicare spending varies widely across regions in the U.S., driven in part by how many hospital beds and high tech imaging equipment is available there, but that more spending doesn't equate to better quality care.

The study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine, analyzed Medicare data from 1992 to 2006. When adjusted for inflation, it found that Medicare spending in Miami rose 5 percent per year during that period, while only 2.4 percent in San Francisco. This resulted in spending of $16,000 per beneficiary in Miami in 2006, as compared with roughly $8,000 in San Francisco.

Despite the large gap in costs, the researchers didn't detect and difference in quality between the two regions. Other research, meanwhile, has suggested that lower costs can sometimes equate to better rather than worse quality of care, as lower numbers may suggest a greater reliance on primary care physicians who ideally should do the best job of coordinating treatment.

To learn more about this study:
- read this Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report item 

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