Monday, October 16, 2006

USA Today article about American Health Care

From the article:

So what's driving the rapid rise of health care spending ?

Major drivers of medical inflation include how rapidly Americans embrace new drugs and technology, which are often more expensive than older treatments. Public demand is a big factor. Patients generally want the newest treatment, equating new with "better," even before solid proof exists.

Other factors include rising prices for medical services, particularly hospital prices, growing labor costs and waste and inefficiency. America's obesity epidemic is also fueling spending on medical care.

Americans did not always select the same culprits for rising spending as do economists.

In the survey, only 28% picked new drugs, treatments and technology as among the single biggest factors, while the smallest percentage, 12%, said costs are rising because more people are getting better medical care than ever before.

Half of respondents blamed profits of drug and insurance companies as one of the single biggest factors, while 37% blamed too many medical malpractice lawsuits, and 36% blamed doctors and hospitals making too much money.

"Profits might explain part of why costs are high, but it doesn't explain why costs are rising," says Paul Ginsburg, an economist at the Center for Studying Health System Change. New treatments and increased demand are fueling the rise, he says.

"The thing I find dismaying is the public doesn't recognize that it's the additional medical care they're getting that's driving costs up," Ginsburg says. "They have to come to grips with the fact that we won't be able to slow the rise in costs without making trade-offs."


Poll respondents were closer when it came to fraud and waste, with 37% choosing it as one of the biggest drivers. Reinhardt and others have said that fraud along with overuse and waste are big players in rising costs. Overuse and waste can include unnecessary treatments, tests repeated because original results were misplaced or reliance on ineffective treatments.

"Several credible estimates have come up with around 30% of health care is unnecessary," says Richard Deyo, professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle. "I suspect even an ideal system would have some unnecessary care delivered, but 30% seems a high percentage."

Few saw any consumer responsibility in rising costs, with only 29% citing Americans' unhealthy lifestyles as one of the biggest factors.


The USA Today feature also included an article that gave consideration to Universal Health Care. The article can be found here.

In the article, the poll sponsored by USA Today, ABC News and the Kaiser Family Foundation found that a majority of Americans (56%) favor creating universal coverage for every American. Sixty-eight percent of Americans believe creating a universal health care system is more important than keeping taxes down. So much for the Republican argument that people always hate tax increases.

We can create a universal system that saves costs and saves lives. The poll shows that a majority of Americans support creating a universal system. Universal health care is an idea whose time has come. All we need to do now is vote for candidates who will go on the record supporting it.


Teri said...

What is driving high health care costs? The drive for profits. If you have a system run for profit, with insurance to pay part of the costs, there is no incentive to constrain costs. Unnecessary tests are urged on the consumer. They assume that they are necessary to maintain health, instead of thinking about the profit factor.

It used to be that we had large factories. Now we have no factories and huge hospitals. There was a time when folks did not go to the doctor or the hospital unless absolutely necessary. Now we don't think twice about a trip. And doctors once knew how to diagnose problems. Now they have to call in the machines.

If there were universal health care, it would do me no good. First, I have no paid time off for the first year of work. It would cost me a day's pay to take time off to go to a doctor. Secondly, the type of medical care I want is never covered. Prescription drugs are much too strong for me. I prefer vitamins and herbs. You will never see naturopathic or homeopathic care covered. If I want those, I have to pay out of pocket. Let others do the same for traditional health care.

Anonymous said...

I think universal health care is an admiral goal, but when has the goverenment *ever* done anything better than the private sector? The government is full of waste, bureaucracy and over spending on everything. How would it make medicine *better*?

OkieLawyer said...


What does government do better?

1. Dispense justice;

2. Provide startup capital for public projects (railroads, highways, dams, electrical and telecommunications grids, etc);

3. Internalize externalities (take problems which, although vitally important for a just society, may be insufficiently profitable -- even costly -- and spread its cost throughout society);

are just a few that I can think of on the top of my head.