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Competition, not need, drives hospital cardiac care investment

The Washington Post, July 10, 2013

U.S. hospitals spent up to $4 billion adding angioplasty services over a four year period, but the new services did little to improve access to timely medical care, says a study published Tuesday in the journal Circulation. Between 2004 to 2008, some 251 hospitals added the invasive and often life-saving cardiac care, but researchers found that the new programs were mainly built near existing ones in competitive healthcare markets, rather than where the need for the services was greatest. The percent of the U.S. population with timely access to angioplasty—a drive time of under one hour—improved by less than 2 percent during the study period. At the same time, the number of hospital-based cardiac labs and clinics increased by 16 percent, the study found. The millions of dollars hospitals have spent adding the services led to higher insurance premiums for everyone, researchers concluded.