We analyze whether receiving care from higher-priced hospitals leads to lower mortality. We overcome selection issues by using an instrumental variable approach which exploits that ambulance companies are quasi-randomly assigned to transport patients and have strong preferences for certain hospitals. Being admitted to a hospital with two standard deviations higher prices raises spending by 52% and lowers mortality by 1 percentage point (35%). However, the relationship between higher prices and lower mortality is only present at hospitals in less concentrated markets. Receiving care from an expensive hospital in a concentrated market increases spending but has no detectable effect on mortality.
We uncover political dynamics that reward and reinforce increases in US health spending by studying the passage of the 2003 Medicare Modernization (MMA). We focus on a provision added to the MMA, which allowed hospitals to apply for temporary Medicare payment increases. Hospitals represented by members of Congress who voted ‘Yea’ to the MMA were more likely to receive payment increases. The payment increases raised local health spending and led to suggestive increases in health sector employment. Members of Congress representing hospitals that got a payment increase received large increases in campaign contributions before and after the program was extended.