Mending the Cost of Healthcare
Terry Braverman and Company

Mending the Cost of Healthcare

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: "America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system.” ― Walter Cronkite

In November, the New York Times reported that the cost of a single medical suture in the U.S. had surpassed $500. The cost was based on a national average of the procedure performed in doctors' offices, out-patient clinics and hospital emergency rooms. Compare that to a doctor in Ecuador who estimates the average cost of a stitch in Ecuador to be $30 to $35. The comparison is in line with the latest World Health Organization's survey of health care costs by country. As of early 2013, the per capita expenditure on health care in the U.S. was $8,635 compared to $750 in Ecuador. Spending on health care in the U.S. represents 18.2% of the national GDP, the highest in the world, while it represents 8.8% in Ecuador.  For the record, the per capita cost in Canada is $4,500, 11.5% of GDP; $3,750 and 9.9% in the U.K.; $1,425 and 9.9% in Argentina; $1,135 and 8.4% in Panama; and $725 and 7.7% in Colombia. Is it any wonder why a growing number of baby boomers are heading south?

According to a new book in progress by economics advisor Ron Robins, one way to address the issue is to re-organize the health care system according to well-studied methodologies that show huge potential cost savings. While another way—garnering increasing attention—is by utilizing scientifically validated disease prevention interventions such as meditation: “Interestingly, by deploying the known methodologies and interventions, it might not be necessary to reduce benefits yet still be able to cut health care costs a stunning 50-80 per cent,” asserts Mr. Robins. “The current deficit account of the U.S. Government includes an astounding unfunded liability of $205 trillion. It equals a current debt of about $665,000 for every living American adult and child. And most of this sum pertains to health care. The health care costs quagmire poses a financial deathblow to the U.S. economy and its citizens. To avert this calamity, America’s health care system must be revamped.”

The major health care cost drivers cited:
The increasing incidence of chronic disease in an aging population

Relatively fewer workers to pay for increasing costs

Exceptionally high professional fees relative to other developed countries

Huge oversupply of services, equipment

Administration costs and fraud (worthy of specific mention here are costs of malpractice insurance and litigation)

As the elderly are responsible disproportionately for health care costs, some researchers suggest they be particularly encouraged to practice preventive modalities, be it a healthier diet, consistent exercise, and/or relaxation techniques. One leading researcher on health care costs, Dr. Robert Herron, wrote in the Huffington Post on July 13, 2012: “In the Medicare population… the highest spending 25% of seniors accounted for 85% of total expenses’ and that there was ‘a 28% reduction in doctors’ bills over five years from baseline for persistent high-cost people who practiced the Transcendental Meditation technique.’"

After reviewing the book, “Tracking Medicine,” by John E. Wennberg, researcher Arnold Relman commented, ‘[Wennberg] provides convincing evidence that oversupply of services throughout the U.S. adds greatly to the cost of care…that since the medical care in the low-expenditure areas is not discernibly different in quality from that in the high-expenditure areas, a huge amount of money could be saved if the country were to receive care the way it is provided in the low-expenditure areas. Wennberg estimates the savings would be about 30 to 40%.’”

Regarding administrative costs, OECD Health Division Director Mark Pearson notes that these costs constitute about 7% of all health care costs in the U.S., roughly double those of other developed countries.  And the FBI calculates that fraud costs the health care system about $80 billion annually—or about 3 per cent of all health care expenditures.

Conclusion:  The solution to the health care financial debacle requires radical changes to the health care system and Americans’ attitudes about their health and health care. It requires each one of us to assume greater responsibility for our health and well-being. This means we become knowledgeable about an array of healthy options and take action via our lifestyle choices toward disease prevention. As the demand for preventive medicine and healthy living continues to grow, reforms to the health care system should occur naturally and spur implementation of known cost-effective modalities. It means introducing scientifically validated cost-saving disease prevention programs such as meditation, T’ai Chi, and Yoga that also create an inner fulfillment and self-sufficiency, as opposed to externally-driven, instant gratification consciousness that engenders frustration, feelings of lack, and ill health.

Ron Robins estimates these recommendations could cut U.S. health care costs by 50-80% and dramatically improve health outcomes—all without reducing benefits.

“Patient refused an autopsy.”
“Vaginal packing out. Doctor in.”
“Large brown B.M. Walking down the hall. “
“Exam of genitalia revealed that he was circus sized.”
“Patient was to have a bowel resection. He took a job as a stockbroker instead.”





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