Study Shows Expensive Hospitals are not Necessarily Better

Sunday, February 02, 2014
(AP graphic)

Paying more for hospital care does not necessarily mean getting better medical care, a new study shows.


Using information from 25,000 insurance claims filed by autoworkers in 10 cities, researchers found hospitals that charge the highest prices enjoyed good reputations and strong local market shares. But these facilities didn’t always provide the best care.


Those filing the claims visited 110 hospitals in cities like Buffalo, Cleveland, Kansas City and others. The researchers compared 30 low-priced hospitals (that charged 10% or more below average) with 30 high-priced ones (10% or more above average) and 50 medium-priced ones.


They found expensive hospitals were twice as large as the low-priced ones, and enjoyed substantially more market share. The higher-priced ones were also more likely than other hospitals to win a national ranking for high quality from U.S. News & World Report, which relies heavily on feedback from doctors.


But the pricier facilities were outperformed by low-priced hospitals in keeping patients from coming back within a month of being discharged and for avoiding blood clots and death in surgical patients.


The high-priced hospitals also weren’t any better at keeping heart attack and pneumonia patients alive.


Overall, their ratings among patients were not significantly different than those for low-price hospitals.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Expensive Hospitals: Strong Reputations But Little Evidence Of Better Care, Study Finds (by Jordan Rau, Kaiser Health News)

Understanding Differences Between High- and Low-Price Hospitals: Implications for Efforts to Rein in Costs (by Chapin White, James D. Reschovsky and Amelia M. Bond, HealthAffairs)

Childbirth Crapshoot: Hospital Charges Vary by a Factor of 10 (by Ken Broder, AllGov California)

Worst Overcharging Hospital in U.S. (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)

Overbilling by Doctors and Hospitals Costs Medicare a Billion Dollars a Year (by David Wallechinsky and Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


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