After years of trying to clamp down on hospital spending, the federal government wants to get control over what Medicare spends on nursing homes, home health services and other medical care typically provided to patients after they have left the hospital.
Researchers have discovered huge discrepancies in how much is spent on these services in different areas around the country. In Connecticut, Medicare beneficiaries are more than twice as likely to end up in a nursing home as they are in Arizona. Medicare spends $8,800 on each Louisiana patient getting home health care, $5,000 more than it spends on the average New Jersey senior. In Chicago, one out of four Medicare beneficiaries receives additional services after leaving the hospital—three times the rate in Phoenix.
Last year $62 billion — one out of every six dollars Medicare spent in the traditional fee-for-service program — went to nursing and therapy for patients in rehabilitation facilities, nursing homes, long-term care hospitals and in their own homes, according to a congressional advisory panel.
Most of them got those services after coming out of the hospital. Some of these...