For decades, geographic variation in the use and cost of health care has captured the imagination of researchers and policy makers. As a policy problem, variation suggests its own solution — reducing variation — but the substantive weaknesses of this policy idea invite a second look at its success. This article considers the politics of policy ideas to analyze the potential rhetorical strengths of reducing variation. It finds that this idea appeals to multiple health care audiences, remains practically and politically ambiguous as to problem and solution, and resonates with long-held aspirations of policy elites, including being hopeful about solving the seemingly intractable problems of the US health care system.

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