(CNN) – Does better insurance equal better health care? According to a new study, not necessarily. Some doctors may be recommending unnecessary tests to their better-insured patients. Providing low-value services and running up insurance costs.
In medical terms, “low-value services” are defined as providing little value to the patient when costs and alternatives are taken into account.
A recent study shows that of insurance claims from nearly one and a half million people in 2013, just under 8-percent of people had received these low-value services.
They can include, hormone tests for thyroid problems. X-rays or MRI scans for lower-back pain and brain scans for uncomplicated headaches.
The study focused on a narrow margin of services, but those accounted for half a percent of total spending, more than 32-million dollars in 2013 alone.
So why are doctors providing unnecessary tests? Many factors come into play.
- Sometimes a patient asks for a certain test, and doctors oblige to avoid potential lawsuits.
- Self-appointed committees that decide which treatments or procedures are low-quality may have conflicts of interest, so their guidelines may not always be objective.
- Treatment recommendations change as new technology and research are released.
Researchers did note healthcare disparities cut both ways. Underinsured patients not getting enough care, while over-insured patients get a lot of poor-quality care.