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A Real Solution to the Health Care Crisis--Reduce Waste and Innovation

Posted Jun 20 2009 11:12pm
Americans are worried about Health Care. This is nothing new.

For more than a decade politicians have been avoiding this issue. They prefer to side with the health care and insurance industries and preserve the status quo. The status quo in return for massive campaign contributions.

You rarely hear politicians discuss a solution to the health care crisis. Instead, they spread fear by telling us we can't afford the cost of a national health care initiative and that it will bankrupt our future.

Two major, independent, studies contradict the conclusion that we cannot afford to do what is right-- bring health care to all our citizens.

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.

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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By Bob DeMarco

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 arecent pollsay 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 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 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 paper 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.

Bob DeMarco is an Alzheimer's caregiver and editor of the Alzheimer's Reading Room. The Alzheimer's Reading Room is the number one website on the Internet for insight into Alzheimer's disease. Bob taught at the University of Georgia, was an executive at Bear Stearns, the CEO of IP Group, and is a mentor. He has written more than 800 articles with more than 18,000 links on the Internet. Bob resides in Delray Beach, FL.

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