Younger Docs Practice Costlier Medicine

Younger, less experienced doctors are costlier for the health care industry, and they might find themselves in trouble as health plans and Medicare now use cost profiles to identify which physicians account for more health care spending.

Younger, less experienced doctors are costlier for the health care industry, and they might find themselves in trouble as

health plans and Medicare now use cost profiles to identify which physicians account for more health care spending

, according to a new study.

A RAND Corporation study in Health Affairs found that physicians with less experience practice a costlier style of medicine. These findings could have repercussions for young doctors, who may find themselves facing lower payments as the U.S. health care industry is looking for providers who deliver quality care at a lower cost, according to RAND.

The study found that physicians with less than a decade of experience had costs that were 13.2% higher than physicians with 40 years or more of experience. As a physician gained more experience, he or she was less costly. By the time a physician had 30 to 39 years of experience, he or she only cost 2.5% more than a physicians with 40 years of experience.

"These findings are provocative, but they warrant further examination and need to be affirmed by additional studies," lead author Ateev Mehrotra, MD, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and a researcher at RAND, said in a statement. "However, it is possible that one driver of health care costs is that newly trained physicians practice a more-costly style of medicine."

The study did not attempt to determine the quality of care provided, but the cost difference does not suggest that young physicians were providing better care. There is also no association between costs and characteristics such as malpractice claims, disciplinary actions, board certification of the physician or the size of the physician’s medical practice.

One reason young physicians might be costlier is because they are more familiar with and more likely to use new, expensive treatments, according to the researchers. Or, lack of experience might translate into a more aggressive medical care.