HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Senate Finance Considers the Cost of Health Care

Ezra Klein updates us on what is happening in the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the cost of health care.  He writes,

I'm on the Hill this morning for a Senate Finance Committee Hearing on "Rising Costs, Low Quality in Health Care: The Necessity of Reform." This is one of the hearings that's supposed to lay the groundwork for the Finance Committee's upcoming "Prepare for Launch" health care summit, which is in turn, supposed to lay the groundwork for the Committee's 2009 push for comprehensive reform. . . .

The first witness was Paul Ginsberg, president of the Center for Studying Health System Change, who made two main points. First, "By any measure...U.S spending on health care is greater than other developed countries. In 2006, the United States spent $2.1 trillion, or 16 percent of GDP, on health care, translating to $7,026 annually. But unlike other developed countries, which provide near-universal coverage, 47 million people in 2006 were uninsured." Second, "the enormous amount of money spent on medical care in the United States does not appear to buy us outstanding health. By almost any measure, ranging from infant mortality to preventable deaths, the United States does not measure up well against other developed nations."

Then came Elizabeth McGlynn, from RAND. "In 2003," she said, "my colleagues and I published, in the New England Journal of Medicine, the first national, comprehensive study on quality of care for adults. We examined 439 indicators of quality for 30 clinical areas. We found that on average, American adults received just 55% of recommended care for the leading causes of death and disability. . . .   We spend nearly $2 trillion and we get it right about half the time."

Felicia Fields, group vice president for human resources at Ford, noted that her company spent $2.2 billion on health care last year, or about $1,000 per car. And Arlene Holt Baker, executive VP at the AFL-CIO, reported the results of a survey of her union's members that showed a deep anxiety about keeping and paying for their health care. . . .

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