We can’t let health care costs destroy our economy. That would be a really stupid thing to do. We are on that path today—but we do not need to let that happen. Health care costs are destroying both state and federal budgets and health care costs are driving too many American families into financial collapse and ruin because we are making bad choices.
We spend twice as much money on care as other industrialized nations. Other countries aren’t spending less money than we are by rationing care. Most of those countries get better care, faster care and more care than we do.
We have been collectively unwilling to look at and use the real opportunities we have to bring down the costs of care—and make the quality of care and the outcomes of care in this country better.
We need to reengineer both the production and the distribution of health care. We need patient-focused caregivers to deliver better care, safer care, more affordable, and more dependable care to US patients.
Three-quarters of US health care costs come from patients with chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. Eighty percent of our costs are spent on patients with co-morbidities—multiple health conditions.
The good news is this: The chronic diseases that create more than 75% of our health care costs today actually can be prevented for most people. We know how to do it. The medical science is very clear.
We need to make care better, more affordable, and we need to create a situation where fewer people actually need care.
That can be done.
Things could improve a lot if we make the right set of choices and then have the courage to do the things that need to be done to achieve the goals we need to achieve.
Kaiser Permanente is a member of the World Economic Forum Health Governors, a group of hospitals, pharmacies and health plans focused on lowering health systems’ costs. George Halvorson is in Davos this week. We welcome your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org.