Medicare at work

…[there are] striking variations in what Medicare pays for care in different states, or even neighboring Zip codes. In 2001, the typical Medicare patient in Los Angeles cost the government $3,152 more than a comparable patient in the District. A patient in Miami cost $3,615 more than one in Baltimore.

Those disparities cannot be explained by differences in local prices or rates of illness, said John E. Wennberg, a Dartmouth physician and an expert on geographical variations in medical care. Rather, higher spending is related to the number of specialists, hospital beds and technology available. "If you have twice as many docs in a community," said Wennberg, "you end up with twice as many office visits."

Yet most high-spending states rank near the bottom in quality of care, Medicare data show. Louisiana ranked 50th in quality yet first in Medicare spending in 2001, the most recent year available. New Hampshire was first in quality but 47th in spending.

Andrew Samwick has more, including the original links.

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