Healthcare Costs America Matters

With all the news and discussion over America’s healthcare system, one thing is certain: costs are on the rise. This will be, and is, a huge barrier to reaching the main goal of a government healthcare policy — quality coverage for all Americans. While the various players involved in healthcare will each point blame in different directions, collaboration and compromise will be required to solve the multi-faceted problem. Some major issues affecting healthcare costs are:

  • Spending in the healthcare sector is primarily on hospital services, out-patient (clinic) services, and medication. What some may find surprising is that hospital and clinic services comprise 52% of total spending, while medications cost only 10%. These high costs can be reduced through a combination of regulation, adjustments in supply and demand, increased use of advanced-practice providers such as physician assistants, and greater transparency and competition in fees for medical services.
  • The #1 cause of death and chronic disease in America is heart disease. This along with other widely occurring diseases, such as diabetes, are mostly preventable. There are both personal and institutional responsibilities towards engaging in preventative, rather than treatment-focused, medicine. Individuals who maintain healthy lifestyles are far less likely to need care, and their lifetime medical expenses will be lower. Recent pushes toward preventive medicine at the institutional-level, such as education, cheap to free “wellness” exams, and discounts on gym memberships and the like have incentivized healthy living among Americans. A country full of healthy citizens would also lower demand for healthcare, which would drive down costs as well. Of course, not all medical needs are preventable, and thus the need to have access to quality healthcare coverage.
  • We are a capitalistic society and healthcare at all-levels is primarily a for-profit industry in America. This means there is minimal incentive to reduce cost to consumers, and companies may focus on profits over care. Estimates of insurance company and hospital profit margins vary widely, but it may be time to regulate profit margins in an industry that makes money off human lives.

  • Healthcare fraud costs the industry and government billions of dollars annually. Better oversight and management of billing systems may help. Additionally, individuals should always check their medical statements to verify that what doctors and hospitals billed insurance companies are actually the services they provided.