Physicians driving regional variation in health care costs, study

The expansion of health insurance coverage in the United States is likely to be on the front burner of health care reform efforts in the new presidential administration. But boiling on the back burner is perhaps the most serious threat to Americans’ access to care: rapid growth in health care costs.

 

Pessimism abounds. Most observers see rising costs as an inexorable force, blame advancing technology, and conclude that only by rationing beneficial care or making draconian price cuts can we slow the growth of health care costs.

 

But a careful look at variations in spending growth and spending patterns among U.S. regions reveals a more optimistic picture. By learning from regions that have attained sustainable growth rates and building on successful models of delivery-system and payment system reform, we might, with adequate physician leadership, manage to “bend the cost curve.”

 

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(Sources: The New England Journal of Medicine, http://nejm.org, accessed March 1, 2009; The Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, February 25, 2009)