Monday, January 02, 2012

Understanding The Rising Cost Of Health Care

By Terry Stanfield

The rising cost of health care should be examined closely these days. Almost nobody who has looked at the problem will say that there certainly isn't a need for reform of the current health care system, because it certainly is in need of such reform. However, understanding what factors go into creating increases in costs for health care needs to be examined carefully in order to accomplish meaningful reform.

The factors that go into making up health care costs can be varied. There seems to be a literal universe of such factors, with one such being that it can cost private industry billions of dollars to create and then market a new prescription drug. The cost of such development has to be recouped and it is usually always the users of those drugs that end up paying for it in the end.

Also, it seems that our skill and ability to invent and innovate also helps to contribute to rising costs. For sure, we all love the fact that we now have super-precise MRI scanners that can help a physician closely examine just about any internal issue that we may be experiencing, but these machines are not cheap, and they help to increase overall costs in the system.

For example, consider that a patient -- who has been educated to believe that it is only an MRI that can be truly diagnostic -- demands high-technology screening (such as is found with an MRI scanner) be done in order to get to the root of this problem. It just may be that a lower-cost CAT scanner might do just as well, but patients are now trained to believe that is the MRI alone that is effective.

On the physician front, many doctors who maintain their credentials at one hospital or another are also eager to have the hospital bring in the latest technologies, though those technologies may not be actually be that much more effective than the older technologies already in the hospital. Replacing a CAT suite with a new MRI suite can run millions of dollars, and guess who ends up paying?

People themselves are also to blame for rising costs. Our dietary and lifestyle habits -- in which we are eating more than ever and working out less than ever -- are leading to an epidemic of obesity in this country. Health problems emanating from such obesity are manifold and plenty, and the cost to provide health care to an increasingly unhealthy population are rising more and more each year.

These are just a few reasons for why the rising cost of health care has now come to the forefront and along with it the need to reform the system. Whether the current proposals put forth by the government will make a difference is still up for debate, but what is not is the fact that some sort of reform is necessary to get a handle on such costs.

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