We all know that one reason for rising health costs is that newer technologies are more expensive. For one small example, consider the evolution from sigmoidoscopies to colonoscopies. The medical director Patient Care writes that sigmoidoscopies have virtually ceased once colonoscopies became a covered benefit under both Medicare and private insurance. Consider the charge for a sigmoidoscopy is several hundred dollars compared to over $3000 for a colonoscopy. Thus, the cost of screening for 100 patients increased from $20,000 to $300,000. Even taking into account that sigmoidoscopies should be performed more frequently (3-5 years compared to 10 years), this is a signficant increase.
While these advances benefit patients, there is a cost: rising health insurance premiums, more expensive medications, decreased physician access, a growing number of uninsured. Can we afford to be advancing so fast?