Health economists estimate that 30 percent of annual health care spending is wasted money. That 30 percent translates to 700 billion dollars.
Why is cutting health care costs such a challenge?
Both Congress and the public are unwilling to admit that reducing health care is the only meaningful way to cut spending. Patients bristle at the suggestion of reduced access to an available test. This is partly due to the pervading belief that more care equals better care—when in fact, that’s not the case. Data shows that people with lavish insurance, or “Cadillac plans,” often are no healthier than those with less comprehensive insurance.
Similarly, Congress shows little appetite for cutting health care, evidenced by their response to the recent changes in the breast cancer screening guidelines. The Senate recently passed an amendment to specifically ignore recommendations from the non-partisan United States Preventive Services Task Force, which questioned the usefulness of mammograms in women younger than 50 years old.
This does not bode well for reformers who want to control costs by encouraging medical practices to adhere to the best available data.
Controlling health spending requires sacrifice from everybody: doctors, who need to divorce themselves from a lucrative fee for service payment system; patients, who have to give up the idea that more testing is better medicine; and politicians, who must not be afraid to make unpopular decisions to control health spending.
I encourage you to listen and vote in this week’s poll, located both below, and in the upper right column of the blog.