HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Creighton University School of Law

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

End of Life Costs: Outcomes v. Spending

The Wall Street Journal Health Blog has a great chart reflecting the data presented by the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care on health care spending in the United States.  The Dartmouth Atlas reviews money spent on Medicare patients across the country.  This information is then compared with outcome data for the same area.  Basically, the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care tries to show whether money spent on health care equates to better outcomes.  The latest data shows that there does not appear to be a relationship with more money spent and better outcomes.  (This fact is also reflected (although in very different data) in another recent study demonstrating that although the United States spends lots of money on health care (more than many other developed nations), the results have not been a healthier population).  Theo Francis writes,

The latest edition of the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care is out today, showing that the cost of individual medical services isn’t the big driver of Medicare spending, at least for chronically ill patients in their last two years. It’s the intensity of care, such as the number of specialist visits and days in the ICU, that matters most, the WSJ reports. Sheer availability of services has a lot to do with how much gets spent.

Nearly as notable as the Atlas’ findings–that Medicare could have saved as much as $50 billion over five years if all U.S. hospitals cared for dying, chronically ill patients the way the most efficient facilities do– are its proposals for change.

Ezra Klein breaks down some of the numbers and the perhaps surprising inefficiencies in our health care system.

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