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U.S. Health Care System Improving, But at Slow Rate

Jacquelyn Gray | Saturday, November 16, 2013
The U.S. health care system is still performing poorly in some aspects, and is improving at a slower rate than similar countries, according to the Nov. 13 issue of JAMA.
 
Hamilton Moses III, MD, and other researchers from The Boston Consulting Group and the University of Rochester used public data that ranged from 1980 to 2011 to analyze the American health care system. They concluded that while there has been a priority to health care, the U.S. is still behind the curve in improvements.
 
“Government funding increased from 31.1% in 1980 to 42.3% in 2011,” the researchers wrote. “Despite the increases in resources devoted to health care, multiple health metrics, including life expectancy at birth and survival with many diseases, shows the United States trailing peer nations.”
 
The authors also acknowledged other economic effects caused by the health care system, including the influence health care has on the workforce. Health care expenditures as a percent of GDP have doubled since 1980 to 17.9%. Despite the fact that yearly growth has decreased, especially since 2002, it is still growing at 3%, which exceeds overall GDP and any other industry.
 
The study debunked the misconception that demand for services and aging have led the increase of health care costs; however, the authors found that hospital charges, professional services, drugs and devices, and administrative costs produced 91% of cost increases since 2000.
 
Researchers also called attention to the cost of chronic illnesses.
 
“In 2011, chronic illnesses account for 84% of costs overall among the entire population, not only of the elderly,” the study found. Chronic illness costs are not predominantly attributed by the elderly. “Chronic illness among individuals younger than 65 years accounts for 67% of spending,” the researchers wrote.
 
The researchers blame this shift in costs to a trifecta of reasons. They say that a culmination of information technology, consolidation of “fewer general hospitals and more single-specialty hospitals and physician groups” and the role of a patient as a consumer has caused a change in priorities.
 
“Clinicians increasingly are expected to substitute social and economic goals for the needs of a single patient,” the authors wrote.



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