Genetic Test Costs Medicare Billions But Delivers Little

Unnecessary medical care costs between $750 billion and $1 trillion dollars a year, and in light of that fact, genetic testing—despite the hype that sometimes surrounds it—should be viewed with as much clinical reserve as other kinds of testing, according to researchers at the University of Michigan. Their study in the Journal of Hospital Medicine says that the health care system wastes anywhere between $300 million to $670 million annually for a genetic test for inherited thrombophilia, which can indicate the likelihood of someone getting dangerous blood clots. But treatment won’t change with knowledge that someone has the trait. Hospitalized people who have already had venous thromboembolisms, don’t need a genetic test to encourage them to take proper medication and make lifestyle changes to prevent future ones. Also, the costs for the procedure probably is much higher since the study only looked at Medicare claims.

“Testing for this disorder is almost never beneficial, and in fact can even be harmful because it can cause undue psychological distress for the patient, and unnecessary expense for the health care system,” says Christopher Petrilli, MD, an assistant professor of internal medicine at the University of Michigan and co-first author of the study.

The test for inherited thrombophilia should only be done in situations where clots might be expected to occur, for instance in women who have a family history of clot and who are pregnant or getting hormone replacement therapy.

Source: University of Michigan