How could reducing low-cost health services increase cost savings? 6 things to know

A new study from Santa Monica, Calif.-based RAND Corporation and Los Angeles-based University of Southern California found reducing low-value health services among adults with commercial health insurance could result in significant cost savings.

Here are six things to know about the study.

1. Researchers analyzed 2013 insurance claims from more than 1.46 million adults across the country. The adults were nonelderly and were insured through one of the U.S.'s largest commercial health insurers.

2. Researchers analyzed 28 low-value procedures and found spending on all of them amounted to $32.8 million, which equals roughly $22 per person per year.

3. Approximately 7.8 percent of patients analyzed received low-value services.

4. The most commonly received low-value services were hormone tests for thyroid problems, imaging for lower back pain and imaging for uncomplicated headaches. Spending on these services was lowest among patients who were older, male, African-American or Asian and low-income or enrolled in consumer-directed health plans.

5. The highest spending for low-value services was for spinal injections to treat lower back pain ($12.1 million), imaging for uncomplicated headaches ($3.6 million) and imaging for nonspecific lower back pain ($3.1 million).

6. "Our findings add evidence to the notion that reducing [the] overuse of medical procedures could improve quality while reducing spending," Rachel Reid, MD, lead study author and physician scientist at RAND, said in a statement.

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