Are Rising Health Care Costs As Bad As We Think They Are?
Posted Aug 20 2012 8:38pm
When pundits claim that health care spending is out of control, what do they mean?
Does it mean that Massachusetts' outlawing of hospitals' excessive price increases is a good thing? That rolling back the Affordable Care Act will automatically usher in a new round of price gouging? That when the DMCB generates another medical co-pay, the DMCB spouse is right to wave a copy of the bill around and demand that the DMCB do something now to reform the U.S. health care system?
As the Disease Management Care Blog understands it, what the pundits, Massachusetts legislators, patient advocates and the DMCB spouse mean is that more and more of our nation's gross domestic product (GDP) is being spent on health care services.
What's more, in June of 2009, health care cost growth gained an additional 1% of potential GDP, only to fall back below 1% again in May of 2011. Most of the increases seemed to be accounted for by Medicare Part D spending; if that particular cost is backed out, excess growth would have been 1% or less throughout the measurement period.
The authors can only hypothesize on why health care costs didn't outstrip the U.S. economy. While it could be partially accounted for by the rising numbers of uninsured (who would have avoided going to hospitals or seeing doctors), the authors point out that other trends could have played a role: changing physician practice standards, increasing numbers of salaried physicians, market pressures pushing down on fee schedules, increases in patients' out-of-pocket expenses making them less likely to access the care system, new care models (including disease management?), the increasing use of generics, previously expensive drugs going off patent and the drop-off in the number of "blockbuster" pharmaceuticals.
This means when the economy bounces back and/or Obamacare results in more insured Americans, there is no guarantee that underlying health care inflation will return.