Can Low-Intensity Care Solve High Health Care Costs?

How much you spend on medical care depends on what you get, but also where you get it.

Confoundingly to many, the cost of the same procedure on the same patient by the same physician can vary by thousands of dollars depending on whether it’s performed in a hospital, a hospital’s outpatient department, an ambulatory surgical center or a doctor’s office. It can also vary by who’s paying the bill — which insurer or public program.

And even for the same insurer, cataract surgery might cost twice as muchin a clinic affiliated with a hospital compared with an independent surgery center. The cost of cancer care is significantly higher in hospital outpatient departments compared with community practices, partly because insurers often pay hospitals double for chemotherapy drugs. Delivering a baby in a teaching hospital costs about $2,000 more than in a community hospital.

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