30 May 2008

Cost doesn't equal quality

The renowned education author Jonathan Kozol tells a story about money and education.

The inner boroughs of New York City spent $8,000 or so per student (more now). The outer boroughs about $12,000. The really tony enclaves spent $24,000 per student. At Andover, where Bush went to school, it's $40,000.

When Kozol's conservative friends told him that the answer to our education crisis wasn't to simply throw money at the problem, he liked to reply, "Why not? It works for your kids..."

(I think we can all imagine where Bush might be today - also a federal facility - if he'd gone to an underfunded school in New Orleans or D.C.)

The impact of cost on health care outcomes is different. The rigorous Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care has shown that spending doesn't necessarily correlate with outcome. Now a survey of Medicare beneficiaries released this week in JAMA "suggests that more regional spending on medical care does not improve patients' perception of the medical care they receive..."
The researchers found that per capita expenditures were highly related to receiving more medical care, such as average number of ambulatory visits to physicians in the past year and more cardiac tests (respondents reporting receiving tests in past year, 40.1 percent [lowest average expenditures quintile] to 63.5 percent [highest average expenditures quintile]). However, 7 of the 10 measures of perceived quality, including perceived unmet needs for tests and treatment (respondents reporting unmet needs, 3.9 percent to 5.0 percent) and spending enough time with physicians (respondents reporting adequate time, 88.7 percent to 87.0 percent), were unrelated to expenditures, while the overall rating of perceived quality of care was higher in the lower-expenditure areas (respondents reporting overall care rating of 9 or 10, 63.3 percent to 55.4 percent).

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