Are Doctors To Blame? NPR Reports On What Drives Up Medical Costs

NPR reports on how decisions by doctors can drive up medical consumption, published as part of a partnership with This American Life. The story is the first in a three-part series about why American health care costs are so high. "In the mid-1970s, an unconventional health researcher named Jack Wennberg discovered an unusually high rate of hysterectomies in a small town in Maine. If the rate continued, nearly 70 percent of Lewiston women would be without their wombs by age 70. That was just one of a series of studies conducted by Wennberg that led him to a very surprising conclusion about health care: a large portion of the medical care Americans get is unnecessary. And the structure of the health care system is the reason why. The system can push doctors to prescribe care that doesn't improve patient health" (Spiegel, 10/8).

NPR's coverage also includes an interactive map that shows "geographic differences in the rates of spending and medical procedures performed on people who are covered by Medicare. The rates come from the Dartmouth Atlas Project" (Benincasa and Hsu, 10/8).

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