Saturday, December 01, 2012

A thought about health care costs

Source: Health, United States, 2011
I am more concerned with the total cost of health care in the United States than with the cost of Medicare. Note that the costs of private health insurance and out-of-pocket payments is greater than the cost of Medicare and Medicaid combined.

One way to reduce health care costs is to increase emphasis on prevention of health problems than on their treatment. Not only do people prefer not to get sick rather than to get sick and then treated (and sometimes to get well again), but prevention is cost-effective.

Another way to reduce those costs is to be sure that the services we are paying for are actually beneficial. I belong to a Health Maintenance Organization that spends considerable effort in assuring that the tests, treatments, and drugs prescribed by its doctors are actually useful to the patients for whom they are prescribed.

Costs can also be controlled by seeing that services are provided efficiently. Have a lower paid person provide a service rather than a physician if the service is of equal or better quality. (It turns out that nurses sometimes are better at a service than a doctor.) Use appropriate automation. Keep the growth of personnel costs from growing faster than those in other sectors.

Countries with national health services have been more effective in such measures than has the United States. Indeed, the Veterans Administration has been more effective in such measures than has the private sector health care industry.

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