“It’s rare for anyone to try and tally the precise cost of unnecessary care. But when they do, the estimates are staggering. The Washington Health Alliance, a nonprofit dedicated to making care safe and affordable, analyzed insurance claims from 1.3 million patients who received one of 47 tests or services that are considered overused or unnecessary. What they found should make patients and doctors rethink that next referral. In a single year, more than 600,000 patients underwent a treatment they didn’t need, costing an estimated $282 million. More than a third of the money spent on the tests went to unnecessary care, their study found.
Unnecessary medical care has ‘become so normalized that I don’t think people in the system 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 just. Lown researchers have shown how overtreatment happens across the spectrum of medical care. Doctors may push for Caesarean sections for their own convenience, not so moms and babies can be healthy. Breast cancer, prostate cancer and thyroid cancer get over-diagnosed, leading to harmful and costly treatment. Around a third of colonoscopies are unnecessary, research has shown. That’s not just wasting our money. It’s also putting 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.
He shares his story and discusses his KevinMD article, “How to avoid treatment you don’t need.”
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Hosted by Kevin Pho, MD, The Podcast by KevinMD shares the stories of the many who intersect with our health care system but are rarely heard from.