Tackling health insurance costs

by Lesley Politi on December 11, 2008

Tackling health insurance costs


In the past eight years, health insurance premiums have doubled, rising 3.7 times faster than wages, and increasing co-pays and deductibles threaten access to care for many Americans.

Many insurance plans cover only a limited number of doctors’ visits or hospital days, exposing families to unlimited financial liability. More than half of all personal bankruptcies today are caused by medical bills. Lack of affordable health care is compounded by serious flaws in our health care delivery system. About 100,000 Americans die from medical errors in hospitals every year. We spend more money on health care than any other industrialized nation, yet 45 million Americans are uninsured. The World Health Organization ranked the United States 37th overall for health care.

President-elect Barack Obama and Vice President-elect Joe Biden believe we need to restructure our health care system to reduce inefficiency and improve health care quality, which will drive down costs. Three major factors will help us achieve these goals.

The first is to adopt a state of the art health information technology system. Most medical records are still stored on paper, which makes them difficult to use to coordinate care, measure quality, or reduce medical errors. Processing paper claims also costs twice as much as processing electronic claims.

The Rand Corp. is a noprofit company that focuses on conducting research and provides analysis to address challenges that face the United States and the world. They found that if most hospitals and doctors offices adopted electronic health records, it could save up to $77 billion. The electronic records should reduce hospital stays, avoid and duplicate and unnecessary testing and provide more appropriate drug use.

The second objective is to improve access to prevention and proven disease management programs.

Many agree that a process should be put in immediately to help patients get the care they need and to help providers improve medical practice.

Disease management programs help patients manage their condition and the care they need. More than 75 percent of total health dollars are spent on patients with one or more chronic conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. With these management programs in place it should improve quality of care and lower costs.

The third objective is to lower costs with drug and insurance companies. The first thing to do toward this objective is to increase competition with insurance companies.

The insurance industry these days is dominated by a small group of large companies. The large companies have been buying all the smaller ones.

In the last 10 years there have been more than 400 health care mergers and just two companies have a full third of the national market.

All of these mergers were supposed make the industry more efficient but instead premiums have gone through the roof along with administration fees and CEO payouts.

If drug companies allowed consumers to import safe drugs from other countries this would help lower costs.

Many of these drug companies are taking advantage of the U.S. consumer.

They are selling the exact same drugs in Europe and Canada but charging the U.S. consumer sometimes as much as a 50 percent or 60 percent mark-up.

The new system would prevent drug companies from blocking generic drugs from consumers.

Some of these large drug companies actually pay generic drug makers to stay out of the market. By doing this they can still sell their brand name drugs at a premium.

No matter whom you voted for or what your political affiliation, something needs to be done to reform our health care system. Obama and Biden have a plan that involves many working parts. A few of those parts are improving our health information technology systems, improving consumer access to proven disease management programs and lowering costs by taking anticompetitive actions in the drug and insurance company industry.

Who knows if it is right or wrong, I just hope it works

Source: www.bradenton.com

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