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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Hundreds of thousands of tests and procedures are unnecessary, according to recent analyses from health care think tank the Lown Institute.

Why it matters: By some estimates, as much as a quarter of U.S. health care spending is waste.

Details: Using a Medicare claims database between 2016 and 2018, the institute ranked 3,100 U.S. hospitals based on their likelihood of ordering unnecessary tests or procedures such as coronary stents for stable heart disease. Go deeper (<1 min. read)

  • More than six in 10 hysterectomies analyzed in the data met the established criteria for overuse, with the rate of hysterectomy overuse in North Dakota and Wyoming topping 90%.
  • As many of 200,000 patients might have had unnecessary stents.

More than 40 of the 50 lowest-performing hospitals were in the South.

  • Five of the 10 lowest-ranked hospitals were in Florida.
  • Nine of the top 50 performing hospitals were in New England and 10 were located in the Pacific Northwest.

In a related study published in JAMA Open Network in April, researchers from the institute also found for-profit and non-teaching hospitals were more likely to order unnecessary tests.

What we're hearing: "It speaks to the power of habit, weak penetration of actual science and certainly a lot of prominent financial incentives for hospitals and doctors," Vikas Saini, president of the Lown Institute, told USA Today.

Go deeper

Aug 11, 2021 - Health

Medicare has become more of a private marketplace — and it's costly

Data: Medicare Trustees reports; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Medicare's open enrollment will kick off in two months, leading to the health insurance industry's annual marketing blitz that entices seniors with Medicare Advantage plans that tout capped out-of-pocket costs, vision and dental benefits, and fitness classes.

Why it matters: Medicare Advantage continued to grow during the pandemic, and it's increasingly likely a majority of all Medicare enrollees will be in private plans in a few years despite Medicare Advantage's deep, longstanding problems.

34 mins ago - World

Biden's ambassador nominee: "China is not an Olympian power"

Nick Burns testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Sarah Silbiger/Bloomberg via Getty Images

President Biden's nominee to serve as ambassador to China delivered a stark assessment of the challenges the U.S. faces in confronting Beijing, but stressed that the rising superpower is "not all-powerful" and the West retains "substantial" advantages.

The big picture: Nicholas Burns, a retired career diplomat and former U.S. ambassador to NATO, used his confirmation hearing Wednesday to echo the growing bipartisan consensus that China poses "the greatest threat to the security of our country and the democratic world" in the 21st century.

Scoop: U.S. and Israel to form team to solve consulate dispute

Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid (right) meet in Washington. Photo: Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. and Israel are planning to form a joint team to hold discreet negotiations on the reopening of the U.S. Consulate in Jerusalem, Israeli officials say.

Why it matters: The consulate handled relations with the Palestinians for 25 years before being shut down by then President Donald Trump in 2019. Senior officials in Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett's government see the consulate issue as a political hot potato that could destabilize their unwieldy coalition.