Stethoscope and dollars Stateswith less low-value care might also have a tough time in accessingcare; in addition, many that have smaller percentages of low-valuecare include significant rural areas. (Photo:Shutterstock)

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Where patients live increases the odds that they'll be on thereceiving end of low-value health care services.

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That's according to the findings of an analysis published byresearchers at consultancy Altarum and funded by the PhRMAFoundation. Low-value services, the report says, include opioids totreat headaches, routine cervical cancer screening and imaging forlow back pain.

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Approximately 20 percent of members of a large national insurerliving in Florida, New Jersey, North Carolina and New York, itsaid, got at least one low-value service in 2015. For members inAlaska, North Dakota, Utah and Oregon, on the other hand, onlyabout 10 percent were provided a low-value service.

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Related: 5 low-value health care procedures account for $25Bin consumer spending

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According to Beth Beaudin-Seiler, lead author of the study andsenior analyst at Altarum, the study's results bear out other research that indicates that low-value servicesare more common in some areas of the country than in others. Stateswith less low-value care might also have a tough time in accessingcare; in addition, the report says, many that have smallerpercentages of low-value care include significant rural areas.

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While the study doesn't explore the reasons for variations, saysBeaudin-Seiler, "It seems to be more local practices that areproviding low-value care rather than let's say a type of insurancecarrier or a patient demographic," with local providers notnecessarily educated on changing behavior or lacking incentives todo so.

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In fact, providers may be encouraged by fee-for-service reimbursement to continuelow-value services—the most common of which are annual Pap smearsfor women ages 30–65 (perhaps due to lack of knowledge on the partof the physician on the latest practice guidelines), routineVitamin D screening (which could simply be bundled with othertests, rather than specifically being ordered by the doctor) andthe use of five branded drugs despite the availability ofgenerics.

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The analysis estimates that nationwide, an estimated $5.5billion was spent overall on the 20 low-value services in 2015.

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