When Medicare patients move, healthcare spending changes

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When healthcare spending varies widely from one geographical region to another, including for pricey procedures like imaging exams, which variable is more to blame—provider choices or patient preferences?

Both, and in about equal measure, according to researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who crunched the numbers on millions of Medicare patients who relocated from one place to another.

MIT economist Heidi Williams, PhD, a co-author of the study, tells MIT News that some geographic spending variations may be explained by provider populations being more skilled at certain procedures—and thus more inclined to order them—in some areas than in others.

The researchers further found that, when Medicare enrollees relocate, most of their healthcare spending happens within the first year after the move.

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