Physicians May Not Prescribe Certain Drugs Due to High Costs

Services that would deliver the best patient care were rationed by 53.1% of physicians due to costs.

A recent study found that a majority of physicians in the United States ration the amount of medical interventions they perform due to healthcare costs.

Physicians reported refraining from prescribing certain medications, ordering a scan, or repeating a laboratory test, according to a study published by the Journal of General Internal Medicine. The researchers mailed a survey to physicians of various specialties and received responses from 3872 physicians.

Approximately 53.1% refrained from using specific services that would give the best patient care due to cost, according to the study. Prescription drugs were rationed by 48.3% of respondents, and magnetic resonance imaging scans by 44.5% of respondents.

Researchers found that the physician’s specialty, their practice setting, and political views influenced rationing. Physicians that identified as liberals were less likely to ration their treatments compared with their conservative counterparts.

Surgical and procedural physicians were more likely than primary care physicians to ration treatments. In medical schools, physicians were the least likely to ration care. The researchers also found that physicians in small practices were more likely to ration compared with physicians in cost-conscious health maintenance organizations or government programs.

“Physicians become rationing agents of insurance companies because of the paperwork burden and excessive hoops of prior authorizations or excessive out-of-pocket costs that are set up by payers and pharmacy benefit managers,” study lead Robert Sheeler, MD, concluded. “Solo practitioners have fewer resources to deal with the paperwork and other barriers; it may be easier not to make the effort in the first place when they know that their efforts will likely be in vain or will not be compensated.”