7 low-value services cost Medicare nearly $500M a year, UCLA study finds

Nearly $500 million is spent a year on preventive medical services for Medicare patients that are considered "low value," according to a new study led by researchers from the University of California Los Angeles.

The research, published April 14 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, looked at National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data across seven preventive services given a "D" rating by the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force, an independent HHS panel. A "D" rating means the service likely has no health benefits and could even harm patients. 

The seven services studied, which include heart disease screening for low-risk adults and cancer screenings for adults over a certain age, were performed 31 million times annually during the study period, which ran from 2007 to 2016. Added up, all those services cost $478 million a year.

"Medicare could save nearly $500 million per year and protect patients against potential harm by no longer providing reimbursements for these services," the authors concluded, according to an April 28 news release.

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