Toxic Politics Hinder Debate on Healthcare Cost Drivers

John Commins, for HealthLeaders Media , November 13, 2013

Unfortunately those key drivers often are not a central part of a substantive national dialog on what is pushing healthcare cost growth, says study leader Hamilton Moses III, MD, because the debate over healthcare has become politicized, polemic, and poisonous.

"Healthcare has become a surrogate for a host of other factors, primarily the role of the federal government and the respective roles and responsibilities of states," says Moses, a consultant with Alerion Advisors, LLC, and an adjunct professor of neurology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. "This surrogate issue comes at a time when the country has confronted a series of economic crises and wars and forces that are very difficult for us as a country to control and very difficult for us to grapple with."

Ironically, Moses says that his team's research has found that all the news isn't necessarily bad. For example, while the pace of healthcare cost growth remains unsustainable, it has "moderated substantially since early 2000." Even at 3% annual cost growth, healthcare outstrips any other industry, and overall growth as measured by the Gross Domestic Product.

"The untold story here is that beginning in the 1970s but particularly in the 1990s, when cost control measures became routine, the rate of yearly increase has substantially moderated, so much so that if the economy had grown as it had historically before the 2007–08 recession, healthcare as a percentage of GDP would have leveled off or even declined," Moses says.

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