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Physician Prices and Low-Value Services: Evidence From General Internal Medicine

Although there is much variation in the prices commercial insurers pay physicians, it has been unclear if higher prices are associated with higher quality of care. Dr. Amelia Bond, assistant professor of population health sciences, and colleagues examined this association in a new study published in The American Journal of Managed Care. “Policy makers and researchers are increasingly finding that health care prices are infrequently aligned with the quality of care patients receive,” said Dr. Bond. “In this study, we found that higher physician prices were associated with the provision of fewer low-value services, yet these physicians still managed to spend more on those low-value services.” The observational study design used Health Care Cost Institute claims representing three large national commercial insurers. The researchers tracked 19 potential low-value services in 2014. “This study adds to the mixed narrative – prices can be aligned with quality – and raises the question – how tightly should quality be correlated with price?” They suggest that more research is needed to better understand this association.

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