Study: Medicare Bladder Cancer Treatment Policy Raises Health Costs

Reuters: "Medicare's move in 2005 to pay doctors to do bladder cancer surgery in their offices rather than in hospitals dramatically raised the number of procedures and overall health costs, U.S. researchers said on Monday. ... The findings reflect the complexity of cutting health costs in the United States, showing how in some cases Medicare -- the insurance program for the elderly and disabled -- gives doctors incentives to provide too much care, they said."

"Bladder cancer is the most expensive of all cancers to treat, with an average cost from diagnosis to death ranging from $96,000 to $187,000, according to [Dr. Micah Hemani, a bladder cancer expert] and colleagues. In theory, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services decision in 2005 to pay doctors extra to do the procedure in their offices would cost less than doing it in a hospital, he said. Instead, the number of outpatient bladder cancer procedures in Hemani's group practice doubled after the Medicare pay hike and costs to Medicare rose 50 percent overall." The study appeared in the journal Cancer (Steenhuysen, 2/8). 

 

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