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Regional analysis masks substantial local variation in health care spending
Date:10/31/2012

PITTSBURGH, Oct. 31, 2012 Reforming Medicare payments based on large geographic regions may be too bluntly targeted to promote the best use of health care resources, a new analysis from the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health suggests. The analysis will be published in the Nov. 1 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"Much policy attention has been drawn to the large geographic variation in health care spending across regions, and for good reason because regional variation points to inefficient use of resources," said lead author Yuting Zhang, Ph.D., associate professor of health economics at Pitt Public Health. "But it is important to effectively target these policies to reduce overutilization while maintaining access to high-quality care."

Policies that are too widely focused, such as at the larger regional level, could leave many high-spending locales untouched while inadvertently penalizing some low-spending locales. However, policies that are too finely focused, such as at the physician-level, could miss system-level factors that account for high utilization in some areas, Dr. Zhang said.

Previous geographic variation analyses primarily focused on regional areas, such as the hospital referral regions (HRRs) described in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care. The United States can be divided into 306 HRRs, which are areas served by large tertiary hospitals where patients are referred for major cardiovascular surgical procedures and for neurosurgery.

The HRRs can be further divided into 3,436 Dartmouth hospital-service areas (HSAs), where residents receive most of their hospital care from the hospitals in the area.

Dr. Zhang and her colleagues used enrollment, pharmacy claims and medical claims data from 2006 through 2009 from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for a 5 percent random sample of Medicare beneficiaries enrolled in stand-alone Part D plans. The study s
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Contact: Allison Hydzik & Cyndy McGrath
HydzikAM@upmc.edu
412-647-9975
University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Source:Eurekalert

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