Administration Claims About Dartmouth Medicare Analyses Questioned

The New York Times, in a front page story, reports: "In selling the health care overhaul to Congress, the Obama administration cited a once obscure research group at Dartmouth College to claim that it could not only cut billions in wasteful health care spending but make people healthier by doing so. … But while the research compiled in the Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care has been widely interpreted as showing the country's best and worst care, the Dartmouth researchers themselves acknowledged in interviews that in fact it mainly shows the varying costs of care in the government's Medicare program. Measures of the quality of care are not part of the formula. ... The mistaken belief that the Dartmouth research proves that cheaper care is better care is widespread..."

"In interviews and extensive written comments, Dr. Fisher and Jonathan Skinner, a health economist at Dartmouth who works with him, vigorously defended their work. ... they say even if they adjusted more fully to reflect differences in regional costs and patients' health, the overall effect on the atlas's findings would be relatively small."

"Many other health researchers say Dartmouth should be praised for highlighting the tremendous differences in how patients are treated and for emphasizing that patients often fail to benefit from additional care" (Abelson and Harris, 6/2).

Related, earlier KHN story: Crusading Professor Challenges Dartmouth Atlas On Claims Of Wasteful Health Care Spending (Rau, 11/16/09)

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