Medical testing is a huge industry in the United States, with prices that are highly variable in different parts of the country. And while Medicare, the government insurance program for those older than 65 or with disabilities, strictly regulates the price of tests and procedures, doctors who treat seniors can increase revenues by simply expanding the volume of such services and ordering tests of questionable utility.
In some areas where many retirees live, most notably Florida, the data suggests that they do. In 2012, according to a New York Times analysis of Medicare data released last year, more than twice the number of nuclear stress tests, echocardiograms, and vascular ultrasounds were ordered per Medicare beneficiary in doctor’s offices in Florida than in Massachusetts.
When researchers from Dartmouth last year looked at the number of tests and imaging studies received by Florida Medicare patients in the last two years of life, with the exception of the Panhandle, totals were far above the national average, said Dr. Elliott Fisher, director of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice.