Are imaging costs, utilization leading to increased spending in Massachusetts?

Massachusetts doctors are ordering expensive imaging services, such as MRIs and CT scans, helping to place the state’s Medicare spending at the fourth-highest in the U.S, a May 7 article in Boston Business Journal reports.

In 2015, Medicare spent $762.1 million on imaging services in Massachusetts, with per beneficiary spending 14 percent higher than the average state. The article suggests increased imaging costs and higher utilization of imaging services are to blame. 

“This is a contributing factor to higher overall healthcare costs in Massachusetts,” according to a study based on Massachusetts Medicare data.

The story pointed to the average price of a heart ultrasound in the state—$459—was significantly higher than the national average of $379. Additionally, the average cost of a brain MRI with contrast was $699 in a hospital, as opposed to $377 for the same procedure outside the hospital.

A previous study found a dip in diagnostic imaging trends in the bay state from 2009 to 2013. That research found utilization of MRI, ultrasound and radiography all increased during the time period, while CT and nuclear medicine each dipped.

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