Lowering the cost of health care

Unnecessary spending is holding back health care for uninsured Americans.

Daily Editorial Board

According to an Institute of Medicine report released last week, an estimated $750 billion — about 30 percent of total U.S. health care costs — was spent in 2009 on endeavors that failed to improve anyone’s actual health. The total amount would be enough to provide annual health insurance for approximately 150 million working Americans. Currently there are 50 million who are uninsured and 25 million more are underinsured. These costs have arisen from excess administrative costs, inflated prices, fraud and unnecessary surgeries. At the same time, health care costs have increased at a greater rate than the economy for 31 of the past 40 years.

One example of inefficient health care practices is ovarian cancer screenings. On Monday, a panel of medical experts found that routine ovarian cancer screenings do not lower the death rate from the disease but instead produce a high rate of false-positive results — many of which ultimate in unnecessary surgery. For every 20 women who undergo surgery to remove their ovaries, one cancer is found. One out of every five of the women experienced major medical complications from the surgery.

 Miscommunication between medical professionals and poor medical records filing can contribute to a misdiagnosis, which can lead to costly surgeries. A fifth of patients reported that test records were not transferred properly, and 25 percent had to reorder their results. There needs to be more communication between medical professionals and better use of electronic files so health matters can be dealt with more efficiently. At a time when the basic necessity of health care is denied to so many, our health care system must work in order to provide the best care as much as possible.