Kaiser Health News has an excellent article on how Medicare costs are increasing rapidly in traditionally low cost areas. The article focuses on the city of Provo, Utah where residents are among the healthiest in the country and its largest hospital is operated by Intermountain Healthcare, an organization praised by President Obama for providing high quality care at reasonable costs. Despite these factors, spending on Medicare patients has increased significantly in the last few years.
According to experts cited in the article, the major reason for this spike in spending is the use of expensive, new technologies, (such as the use of robotics for surgery) many of which are said to introduce little to no improvement over traditional methods. They go on to say that competition forces hospitals to adopt the latest technology, as patients always want the “best” care, which they equate to new technology. The new health care law is only going to exacerbate this problem. Now that reimbursement will be tied to quality health care, not only will hospitals be pressured to use the latest tools and techniques, but they most likely will extend patient stays, and use more aggressive (and expensive) treatments at earlier stages of illnesses.
The article goes on to say that what is happening in Provo, Utah is also happening in other traditionally low cost areas of the nation. The biggest concern among experts in the field is that these spikes are indicative of what will happen throughout the country as more hospitals begin to focus on higher quality care for Medicare patients, just at a more severe level.
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