Patient insurance status makes no difference in rate of low-value care, study finds

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Low-value care is a problem independent of a patient's insurance status.

The overuse of low-value care, which drives up costs, is just as common among patients in the safety-net population as it is among privately insured patients, a new study found.

There also wasn’t a difference in rates of low-value care provided by safety-net physicians, who see many uninsured or Medicaid patients, and those who see far fewer of those types of patients, according to the study, which was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

The study looked at 193,062 office visits from 2005 to 2013 and compared low-value and high-value care measures in two patient groups. Researchers found that low-value care was delivered in nearly 1 in 5 visits, with no overall difference between the patient groups. Rates of low-value and high-value care delivery were similar across insurance types for the majority of services researchers analyzed.

Overuse of low-value care is common among patients without insurance or with Medicaid. Rates of low-value and high-value care were similar among physicians serving vulnerable patients and other physicians,” the researchers concluded.

Low-value healthcare services spending remains high. The services don’t deliver much benefit for patients but make delivering care more costly. One 2016 study found that spending on 28 low-value services totaled $32.8 million in 2013, or roughly $22 per person annually. A separate study found that doctors are just as likely to provide low-value care as are advanced practice clinicians.