What you pay for health care depends on where you live

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It turns out there are very few truly high or low-cost areas in the U.S. when it comes to health care, since there’s little relationship between Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance spending trends, according to a new study in JAMA Network Open. 

Why it matters: The lack of uniform spending across markets in the same region underscores the complexity of the U.S. health system — as well as the challenges of lowering health care costs.

The big picture: There’s substantial variation between all three categories of insurance, although Medicare spending is more constant. 

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  • That’s likely a reflection of Medicare’s regulated payment rates, compared to the private market and Medicaid managed care’s market-driven prices.

Between the lines: To further complicate things, the study found that each market’s spending variation is influenced by different factors. 

  • In the private market, regions with higher prices generally had higher spending. Within Medicare, regions with higher spending have more specialist physicians per capita. And within Medicaid, regions with higher spending have more hospital beds and births per capita.

The bottom line: How much you pay for health care relative to other Americans depends on where you live. This study proves how much it also depends on where you get your coverage.



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