The Four Problems of Healthcare: It Costs Too Much

By Dr. John Espinola
Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Provider caring for patient


There's a lot of discussion about how to manage and pay for healthcare, but to those of us working in the trenches, the more important discussion to have is how we solve the biggest problems for our customers--the patient.

If one listens to patients - after all, that's who healthcare needs to work for the most - it doesn't take long to draw the conclusion that healthcare does indeed have some big problems. In the perspective that matters to the patients the most, they are:

  • It costs too much.
  • I don't get what I need.
  • I often get what I don't need.
  • I don't like the experience I have.

Upcoming blog posts will address what leads to these problems. What we hope these posts accomplish is to set up an ongoing dialogue about how we solve these problems. We here at Premera do not pretend to have all the answers, but what we are willing to do is to be partners with patients, providers, policymakers and other key health care players in finding the solutions.

Costs are too high

This one is fairly obvious, right? It's hardly a secret that health care spending has grown faster - often much faster - than the economy over the last 45 years. We now spend 17.8 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) on health care, up from 13.3 percent less than 20 years ago.

Our health care spending far outpaces the rest of the world as well. Per person, the U.S. spends twice the amount other developed countries spend on health care, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

And if you think the rise in overall health care costs is alarming, don't look too closely at the growth in categories like prescription drugs. Spending on medicines is far outpacing the overall growth in health care costs - in recent years driven by increases in expensive specialty therapies - and the forecasts suggest growth will continue over the next decade.

We could write much more on this topic, but the bottom line is that health care is far too expensive in the United States. In future posts, we'll talk about what Premera is doing to help contain costs, including encouraging the use of more generic drugs and finding less expensive treatments that still keep people healthy.

John Espinola, MD, MPH is the Executive Vice President of Healthcare Services.


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