Healthcare's $363B in 'Hidden Costs' Detailed
Keckley says healthcare costs are “feeding on themselves” and growing so quickly that they threaten other vital areas of the economy. “Over 40 years there has been an average [annual] 4.9% increase. Not too many people have seen their wages grow at that level,” he said. “The more impact that healthcare has over the pocketbook, it is clear the economy doesn’t recover as fast. Seventy percent of the economy is built on consumer consumption. If more and more dollars are not spent in retail or travel or in various manufactured items, then the economy doesn’t recover the way people anticipate.”
“It is a conundrum. You have an industry that is a big part of the economy, almost 18%. It creates a lot of jobs. But if more and more of the economy is dependent upon healthcare to make itself affordable, then you’ve put it in conflict with itself,” he said.
To help decelerate healthcare costs, Keckley said, the public must change from passive patients to smart consumers. He said the healthcare reforms enacted last year provide consumers with tools that enhance transparency, rate physician and hospital quality, help select health plans, and explain treatment options and costs. “But you still run up against the question of ‘what is going to motivate a consumer to make better choices?’” he says. “That is probably the big hanging chad here. We don’t see that in the near-term. It is part of healthcare’s biggest challenge -- a transition from a patient-orientation to a consumer market. That is an industry challenge, a government challenge. It is also a personal challenge.”
And that challenge could prove daunting. Keckley says surveys have shown that consumers prefer to have their healthcare decisions made by doctors or others. “It may point back at the lack of will on the part of Americans to really be engaged in their own healthcare,” he says. “It may be easier to say ‘the system is not working than’ it is to say ‘and we are part of the problem.’”
The report may be viewed here.
John Commins is a senior editor with HealthLeaders Media.
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