NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 15, 2007

High medical payments do not necessarily buy high-quality patient care, according to a hospital study by the Pennsylvania Health Care Cost Containment Council.

Of Pennsylvania's 60 hospitals that perform heart bypass surgery, the best-paid hospital received nearly $100,000, on average, for the operation while the least-paid got less than $20,000.  At both, patients had comparable lengths of stay and death rates, according to a new state government surgery.

For example:

  • One Philadelphia area hospital with a high success rate of bypass surgeries -- Main Line Health's Lankenau center -- was paid an average of $33,549 by private insurers.
  • That was less than half the nearly $80,000 in average payments received by the other hospitals, with poorer track records.
  • Moreover, among the 20 hospitals serving metropolitan Philadelphia, two of the highest paid actually had higher-than-expected death rates.

Hospitals say there are numerous reasons for some of the high payments, including the fact that a single very expensive case can push up the averages.

Still, the Pennsylvania findings support a growing national consensus that as consumers, insurers and employers pay more for care; they are not necessarily getting better care. Expensive medicine may, in fact, be poor medicine.

Source: Reed Abelson, "In Health Care, Cost Isn't Proof of High Quality," New York Times, June 14, 2007.

For text: 


Browse more articles on Health Issues