Jun 20, 2009

A Real Solution to the Health Care Crisis--Reduce Waste and Use Exisiting Technologies

Two independent studies contradict the notion that we cannot afford a national health care program.

The studies by PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the Dartmouth Atlas Project explain how to extend coverage to the country's uninsured without substantially increasing overall health care costs.

By Bob DeMarco
Alzheimer's Reading Room

The real solution to the health care crisis is to reduce waste and use existing technologies to make the system more efficient.

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Health care costs and the potential loss of health care coverage are weighing heavily on the minds of many Americans. Politicians, well aware of the problem, continue to debate the issue but cannot arrive at a solution. Meanwhile the situation continues to worsens along with the psyche of the American public.

Nearly half of those surveyed in a recent poll say they are worried about their ability to pay for health care in the future.

Recent polls and research show that:
  • Twenty-four percent of Americans said they feared losing health care coverage in the next year.
  • Nearly 25 percent said that they or a family member delayed seeing a doctor in the past year because of what it might cost.
  • 46 percent of Americans polled worried they would not be able to afford health care in the future.
  • In February, the government estimated that health care costs this year would average $8,160 for every man, woman and child in the U.S. — an increase of $356 per person from 2008.
  • Surveys show that an overwhelming 86 percent of Americans believe health reform is an important part of addressing the nation’s economic crisis.
It's estimated that nearly 50 million Americans are uninsured.

Nationwide 15.7 percent of Americans were uninsured in 2005. I think it is safe to assume that this number has grown.

To put the cost problem in perspective, Americans spend more on health care than they do on food and housing. The United States spent approximately $2.2 trillion on health care in 2007, or $7,421 per person. This is twice the average cost of other developed nations.

In the 1970s the United States spent seven percent of GDP on health care. By 2004 this number had soared to 15.4 percent of GDP. A simple comparison of cost, as measured by percent of GDP, with Canada, England, and Germany indicates that costs in the United States are not being managed effectively.

A Real Solution to the Health Care Crisis--Reduce Waste and Use Exisiting Technologies

A study conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers' Health Research Institute found that more than half of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care was wasteful spending.

The research study -- The price of excess: Identifying waste in healthcare spending -- identified several areas of waste and potential savings. These include:
  • ineffective use of information technology ($81-$88 billion)
  • claims processing ($21-$210 billion)
  • defensive medicine ($210 billion)
  • Medical errors ($17 billion)
  • badly-managed diabetes ($22 billion)

The Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care (the granddaddy of this industry) found that
the United States can extend coverage to the country’s uninsured without substantially increasing overall health care costs.
The information is contained in the white paper -- An Agenda for Change: Improving Quality and Curbing Health Care Spending: Opportunities for the Congress and the Obama Administration.
This research discusses opportunities for Congress and the Obama Administration to address key shortcomings in our health care system that result in unwarranted geographic variation and uncontrolled growth in health care spending.

Success in this effort will not only improve the quality of care, it will make it possible to extend coverage to America’s uninsured without inducing a major increase in health care spending.
We know there is a problem and we have known this for decades. Why can't our elected officials look at all the evidence and come up with a solution?

One can only conclude that our leaders in Washington are unwilling to enact a solution that goes against the grain of their vested interest -- contributions from health care and insurance companies that help insure their re-election. Many of us understand this is the real problem.

The health care system needs to be overhauled using already existing productivity tools and efficiency methods. The Health Research Institute and Dartmouth Atlas of Health Care findings provide a framework for achieving effective, affordable health care for all citizens.

It is time to get this accomplished.

Also see The Cost of Healthcare Worldwide

Related Content.

Bob DeMarco
Bob DeMarco is the Founder of the Alzheimer's Reading Room and an Alzheimer's caregiver. The ARR knowledge base contains more than 3,811 articles with more than 306,100 links on the Internet. Bob lives in Delray Beach, FL.

Original content Bob DeMarco, the Alzheimer's Reading Room