MedPAC findings challenge care intensity assumptions in higher cost cities such as Boston, NY

Challenging the long-held belief among health policy experts that health spending is much higher in cities such as New York and Boston because physicians and hospitals practice medicine more intensively, new government data reveal that Medicare costs per patient in those cities are actually slightly below the national average, after adjusting for cost of living and other factors, the New York Times reports.

According to the New York Times article, the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission, an independent federal panel that advises Congress, has found that geographic variation in Medicare spending is substantial. But it told Congress recently that much of the variation could be explained by local differences in the cost of providing care and in the health status of beneficiaries, as well as by extra payments, authorized by Congress, for hospitals that train doctors or treat large numbers of low-income patients.

 (SOURCES: Advisory Board Daily Briefing, http://advisory.com, September 9, 2009; The New York Times, http://nytimes.gov, accessed September 11, 2009)