Managed Care Reduces Cost of Surgery for Colon Cancer

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WASHINGTON—A study of 7,424 privately insured colon-cancer patients found that managed care presence in the market, and hospital competition, increased the likelihood of laparoscopic surgery to treat colon cancer, and that this type of surgery lowered costs. This is according to a national team of researchers led by a professor at the George Washington University School of Public Health and Health Services reported in the journal Cancer, May 8, 2012.

Colon cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States, and surgical resection is the standard of care. The researchers examined whether market forces such as managed care or hospital competition affected the likelihood of an open resection, involving a long incision and lengthy hospitalization and recovery, versus laparoscopic surgery with minimal incisions and shorter hospital stays and recoveries.

“This is a timely analysis in the era of health care reform," said Avi Dor, PhD, lead author and professor of health policy in the Department of Health Policy at GWU’s school of public health. “It demonstrates that competition among providers can be harnessed to benefit patients and consumers."

A 10 percent increase of health maintenance organization (HMO) penetration in a market was associated with a 10.3 percent increase in the utilization of laparoscopy, the researchers found. Also, using a standard measure of hospital competition, they found that less competition was associated with a lower likelihood of laparoscopy.

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