healthaffairs.org: May 2012 vol. 31.
Most analyses of geographic variation in Medicare spending have focused on total spending. However, focusing on the volume and intensity of specific categories of services delivered to patients could help identify ways to lower costs without having a negative impact on care. We investigated how utilization in thirteen medical service categories in Medicare Parts A and B (for hospital and physician insurance, respectively) varied across sixty communities nationwide. We found considerable geographic variation in the use of some service categories, although not all. We also found that local communities used very different combinations of types of services to produce medical care, that some service categories were substituted for others, and that the mix of service categories differed even among sites with high or low total medical utilization levels. Home health and durable medical equipment were major drivers of total geographic service use variation because of their variation across sites. Read More