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High price tag linked to heavy testing by newer doctors

Inexperienced physicians may be contributing to rising costs in the health care system by ordering more care that might not be necessary, but they also might be dealing with sicker patients, according to a RAND Corp. study that appeared in the November edition of Health Affairs. In looking at the cost profiles of more than 12,000 doctors in Massachusetts, the study found that the overall costs incurred by doctors with less than a decade of experience was more than 13% higher than those of physicians who had been practicing medicine for 40 years or more. Cost profiles are used to identify doctors that account for higher spending than others. “By identifying the costliest physicians, health plans and Medicare hope to craft policy interventions to reduce total health care spending,” the study said. The report’s researchers suggested that newer physicians may have more costly practice styles that would help drive up overall health care costs. “Recently trained physicians may ...

Fast food adds 310 calories to a teen’s day

Physicians should encourage parents of young patients to make eating out at restaurants an occasional treat rather than a regular activity, said Lisa M. Powell, PhD, of the University of Illinois at Chicago. Powell’s latest study concludes that children and teenagers consume significantly more soda and other high-calorie foods, and have poorer nutrient intake when they eat out at fast-food restaurants or full-service establishments compared with when they eat meals at home. That general message “is not surprising, but [the study] really starts to quantify how serious the problem is,” said Powell, lead author of the study, which was published online Nov. 5 in Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. Adolescents consume an additional 309.5 calories on days they eat at fast-food restaurants, and children take in an extra 126.2 calories when they dine at such establishments, the study said. “Three hundred additional calories a day is quite serious,” said Powell, p ...

Safety-net hospitals warn of ACA’s uncompensated care crunch

A safety-net hospital advocacy group is projecting a dire outlook for facilities’ ability to handle uncompensated care costs in the event some states fail to expand their Medicaid programs in 2014 and a scheduled reduction in federal indigent care payments takes effect as scheduled. The National Assn. of Public Hospitals and Health Systems compiled data from the Congressional Budget Office, the U.S. Census Bureau and the American Hospital Assn., to estimate that all hospitals, including safety-net facilities, by 2019 will face $53.3 billion in cumulative costs beyond what they would have expected to absorb under original projections for the Affordable Care Act. “Clearly, the report is on target in that if states don’t take up the Medicaid expansion and leave more people uninsured, there’s going to be a need for more uncompensated care. This seems to be a reasonable estimate of what those costs would be,” said Paul Van de Water, senior fellow with the liberal Center on B ...