“It is rare that someone tries to calculate the exact cost of unnecessary care. But when they do, the estimates are staggering. Washington Health Alliance, a nonprofit organization dedicated to making care safe and affordable, analyzed the insurance claims of 1.3 million patients who received one of 47 tests or services deemed overused or unnecessary. What they found should prompt patients and doctors to reconsider the next referral. In a single year, more than 600,000 patients underwent treatment they did not need, at an estimated cost of $ 282 million. More than a third of the money spent on testing went to unnecessary care, their study found.
Unnecessary medical care “has become so normalized that I don’t think people in the system will see it,” Dr. Vikas Saini told me. Saini is president of The Lown Institute, a Boston think tank focused on making health care more effective, affordable and fair. The Lown researchers have shown how overtreatment occurs across the spectrum of healthcare. Doctors can push for caesarean sections for their own convenience, not so mothers and babies can be healthy. Breast cancer, prostate cancer, and thyroid cancer are overdiagnosed, leading to harmful and expensive treatment. About a third of colonoscopies are unnecessary, research has shown. That is not just wasting our money. It also puts us at risk of harm. “
Marshall allen is a journalist and author of Never pay the first bill: and other ways to fight the health care system and win.
Share her story and comment on her KevinMD article “How to avoid a treatment you don’t need. “
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