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Adam Thompson on July 15, 2008 - 11:53am
The state of the US health care system is a little bit like the vehicles churned out by US automakers over the past 25 years; bigger isn't necessarily better, but it sure is more expensive to run. In fact, even though we spend substantially more per person than any other country, the World Health Organization ranked our health care system 37th in the world in 2000. In 2007, the US ranked 42nd in life expectancy. Clearly, we spend more, but we get less.
Improving the quality of health care in the US and reducing the growth of health care costs are inextricably linked. A few sobering facts bear this out:
- The Institute of Medicine estimates medical errors cost $17 billion to $29 billion each year.
- A 2004 HealthGrades study estimated that 195,000 patients die each year across the US from preventable hospital errors.
- The federal agency that directs Medicare and Medicaid has projected US health care spending to double in ten years to more than $4 trillion, accounting for one of every $5 the nation spends.
- A staggering 78% of all health care costs are for people with chronic conditions, like diabetes, heart disease, lung disease, and depression.
Improving the quality of care, reducing public health hazards, and eliminating disparities in health care access will not only improve health and our standard of living, it will reduce health care costs and wasteful spending. This section offers numerous options state lawmakers have to achieve these fundamental necessities.