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Are Higher Care Prices an Indicator of Better Quality?

By March 21, 2022Commentary

The simple answer is no and they never have been.  This has been a justification for both consolidation and price increases by hospitals and physicians.  Frankly, it is bullshit.  This Health Affairs study adds to the evidence, looking at a large commercial claims and outcomes database to examine any relationship between higher prices for primary care physican services and better outcomes or quality.  The highest priced doctors were paid more than twice as much for the same service as the lowest paid ones and total annual costs for their patients were $1000 dollars higher than that for patients of the lowest cost doctors, with the difference not being explained by utilization but by the higher unit prices.  Looking at ambulatory care-sensitive hospital admissions and readmission rates, there was no difference between the two groups of doctors.  Pay more, get the same.  It is inexcusable, and largely reflects the market power of consolidated physican groups and large health systems.  A ton of health care spending could be avoided by reducing what is paid to these high cost physicians.  (HA Study)

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