Is it possible to provide high quality medical care at a low cost?

December 2012 Newsletter from Bruce Jugan

Is it possible to provide high quality medical care at a low cost? That is the trillion dollar question because lower cost medical care will result in less expensive health insurance.

The good news is a resounding YES. It is possible.

This newsletter has links to excellent pieces that address this question. There is a medium for everyone including an online video of a TV documentary, radio podcasts and written articles:

  • An excellent PBS documentary, Money and Medicine, compares two high quality medical centers where one is half as expensive as the other. From birth (and the preference for delivery by Caesarean section) to death (and the use of heroic measures to extend life) this program shows how each system handles care differently and every medical decision impacts the cost of care;
  • Radio podcasts from This American Life that tell the story of an insurance company’s struggle to lower costs and how patients (you and me) are asked to take sides in the battle between large medical groups and insurance companies. Another episode describes how the health insurance billing system works… while intending to reduce unnecessary care, the billing system also adds complexity and cost; and,
  • Articles from the New Yorker by Dr. Atul Gawande, a prolific writer on the struggle to create systems for high-quality medicine at lower cost. In 2009 I wrote about Dr. Gawande’s article on one reason health care and health insurance is so expensive. In his recent work he describes instances of well-integrated systems that improve outcomes while lowering cost.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has ten chapters, or titles. Health insurance reform is the first chapter. The ACA will also change how doctors and hospitals keep medical records and how insurance companies link payment to quality outcomes. Monumental changes must occur to transform one-fifth of the U.S. economy into an efficient, low cost, high quality system.

You and I will be asked to take sides in the battle to reduce health care spending. We must be informed. The sources above seek to address that need.