How Should We Cut Health Care Costs?

With a presidential election coming up it is hard to avoid hearing about the issue of rising health care costs and what politicians are planning, or not planning, on doing about it. I figured it was worth sharing some of my thoughts on the matter and the best research I have found so that you can make your own decision.

Before we get into any details I must stress that I am talking from the perspective of a U.S. citizen talking about the U.S. Health Care system as it stands in 2012. I am also talking from the perspective of someone who believes that the U.S. has one of the best, if not the best, healthcare system in the world. And by best I mean has some of the best patient outcomes, regardless of price in the world.

I specifically use the word price as well because I think to a certain degree you get what you pay for. You want the best healthcare, you have to pay for it. On the flip side, I do believe that some of the best treatment methods also cost the least.

When looking at healthcare costs you have to look at a number of things. The administrative cost, hospital costs, doctor costs, equipment costs, drug costs, etc. For the most part nearly all these things have very competitive market based prices that can’t really be lowered without sacrificing quality.

Some of the biggest costs in the medical systems are paid for new drugs and new technologies, all of which are optional for the doctor and patient to choose. While these contribute to overall costs in the medical field I don’t think anyone wants to sacrifice our research and development.

Perhaps one of the biggest costs of the medical industry is misdiagnosis. Doctors aren’t perfect, and I won’t even begin to try and say how they can get better at diagnosis. What I will say is that some tests and procedures are very expensive and oftentimes unnecessary in diagnosing a problem.

For instance, one doctor did a scan on the shoulders of perfectly healthy baseball pitchers and found that nearly 90% had abnormal cartilage and tendons that many doctors would have recommended surgery on. Sports Medicine Said to Overuse M.R.I.’s Remember that these are people with no injuries and no pain.

That is one example among many where expensive procedures are used that end up costing everyone more in rising insurance and Medicare costs. We really need to find a way to discourage both doctors and patients from doing unnecessary procedures.

At the end of the day though, whatever laws get passed, I think we all need to focus on preventive medicine.

Here is a list of the Top 10 most expensive conditions to treat

“Heart disease, cancer, mental disorders, trauma-related disorders (anxiety and stress), osteoarthritis, asthma, hypertension, diabetes, back problems, and hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol).” While not all of these are preventable, there are many risk factors for each and every one of these conditions that we can lower and eliminate altogether.

Did you know that if we could get people to stop using tobacco so much we would limit cancer deaths by 22% a year? (Source: World Health Organization)

Besides mental disorders and trauma-related disorders nearly all the rest are easily and successfully treated and prevented with good dietary interventions. Yet for some reason we keep using expensive procedures and tests that may or may not help us in the long run.

No one wants to admit it, but to lower health care costs we need to move toward a value based system. In other words, what will give me the most effect for my dollar. What will be more cost effective in the long run? Spending money and time on getting the best possible food in my diet, or suffering through test after test and procedure after procedure to ultimately realize this was all preventable in the first place? The choice is yours.

This is our 33rd challenge in The Personal Health Challenge Series…