NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

As More Health Care Is Delivered, More Is Demanded

July 22, 2002

New data shows that if you offer people more health care, they will gobble it up -- without reaping greater benefits.

"If there are twice as many physicians, patients will come in for twice as many visits," says Dr. John E. Wennberg of Dartmouth Medical School, the source of much of the data.

  • In a paper published in February in the journal Health Affairs, researchers wrote that Medicare's typical lifetime spending for a 65-year-old in Miami is more than $50,000 higher than for a 65-year-old in Minneapolis.
  • In a further analysis, they found that in Miami -- where medical services are particularly abundant -- Medicare pay more than twice as much per person per year than it does in Minneapolis: $7,847 in Miami versus $3,663 in Minneapolis.
  • In their last six months of life, older Miamians had more than six times as many visits to medical specialists as those in Minneapolis, spent twice as much time in the hospital and were admitted to intensive care units more than twice as often.
  • Life expectancy is no greater in regions that have more intensive medical care and a Medicare survey found that their quality of care is no better.

Another study found that a tripling of newborn intensive-care specialists did not result in any improvement in infant mortality.

The researchers conclude that without even realizing it, doctors in areas where there are many physicians simply see their patients twice as often, monitoring their conditions ever more closely.

Source: Gina Kolata, "More May Not Mean Better in Health Care, Studies Find," New York Times, July 21, 2002.


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