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Doctors With More Experience May Have Lower Care Costs

MONDAY, Nov. 5 (HealthDay News) -- The most highly experienced doctors spend less money treating patients than those with fewer years of experience, according to a new study.

Researchers used private insurance plan claims for more than 1 million Massachusetts residents in 2004 and 2005 to create health care cost profiles for more than 12,000 doctors in the state, according to the study, published in the November issue of the journal Health Affairs.

Overall costs were about 13 percent higher for doctors with less than 10 years of experience compared to those with 40 or more years of experience. Costs were 10 percent higher for those with 10 to 19 years of experience, 6.5 percent higher for those with 20 to 29 years of experience and 2.5 percent higher for those with 30 to 39 years of experience.

There was no association between costs and other physician characteristics, such as having had a malpractice claim or disciplinary action, whether a doctor was board-certified or the size of the medical practice where a doctor worked, said the researchers from the Rand Corp., a nonprofit research organization.

They noted that the study did not examine the quality of care provided and the cost differences found in the study do not suggest that less experienced doctors provide better care.

The findings could have significant implications for less-experienced doctors, who might be excluded from contracting networks or receive lower payments as private insurers and government programs seek to reward doctors who deliver quality care at a lower cost, the researchers suggested.

"These findings are provocative, but they warrant further examination and need to be affirmed by additional studies," study lead author Dr. Ateev Mehrotra, associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a researcher at Rand, said in a corporation news release. "However, it is possible that one driver of health care costs is that newly trained physicians practice a more costly style of medicine."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about health care costs.

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