Monday, December 3, 2007

High Cost of Health Care

A New York Times editorial titled the High Cost of Health Care succinctly and correctly identifies the factors resulting in current predicament of the American healthcare system. We pay more for our doctors and our hospitals. We use more specialists who utilize more expensive tests and procedures. The issue is at the current rate of spending, the federal program Medicare, will bankrupt the budget, much the same way healthcare costs has done with employers, who now are reducing benefits or dropping health insurance offerings completely.

The solutions are mainly to do what is known to work.
  • Practice effective evidence based medicine consistently and regularly throughout the country. This is only being done about half the time. There is no difference in medical outcomes and it is done at less cost.
  • Improve how primary care doctors are compensated. Industrialized countries that have lower healthcare costs have a robust system of these preventive medicine specialists.
  • Implement information technology widely so that the healthcare system benefits from the same efficiencies that other industries have uncovered.
A single payer system isn't the perfect solution. The "Medicare for all" as some have portrayed the single payer system to cover the 47 million uninsured isn't as simple as it sounds. Medicare and social security are the largest federal entitlement programs and without major reform, both will bankrupt the federal budget. The editorial correctly identified the potential pitfall of relying completely on consumer driven healthcare. Do consumers really know what they are getting when it comes to their health?

Solving the healthcare crisis in America requires a uniquely American solution. To understand what needs to be done you must understand the fundamentals about our healthcare system. The NY Times editorial objectively describes the issues and potential solutions and is an important read for all.

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