By Jason Sattler

Why Does American Health Care Cost So Much?

November 22, 2012 11:10 am Category: Memo Pad, Politics 18 Comments A+ / A-

Watch Money & Medicine on PBS. See more from Need To Know.

It’s often said that America doesn’t have a budget problem, we have a health care cost problem. Our health care system is the most expensive in the word, yet the results are often mediocre or worse, and as many as 40 million Americans live without health insurance.

According to a National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine study, as much as 30 cents on every dollar spent on health care is waste — $800 billion a year. So where is the waste, and how can we fix it?

That’s the question posed by the new PBS documentary Money and Medicine. You can watch the film in its entirety above.

Why Does American Health Care Cost So Much? Reviewed by on . Watch Money & Medicine on PBS. See more from Need To Know. It's often said that America doesn't have a budget problem, we have a health care cost problem. O Watch Money & Medicine on PBS. See more from Need To Know. It's often said that America doesn't have a budget problem, we have a health care cost problem. O Rating:

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  • nobsartist

    Could it be because we are all being ripped off? And the lying, thieving republiCONs are behind it.

    Yes, what would you expect since our failed “health care system” was created by a senile, ex actor who was paid to do it by being given the presidency?

    The real solution is for the President to pass a bill that makes “for profit” health care illegal and negates the failed republiCON health care bill of 1982 and then creates a single payer system that does not allow republiCONs to participate in. They can all buy insurance from their “FOR PROFIT” health insurance friends and if they cannot afford it, they die.

    • TZToronto

      Now, now. That’s not very generous. I think you have to offer them the opportunity to partake in the not-for-profit, lower-cost system. Of course, being as committed as they are to allowing insurance companies to dictate who will live and who will die (you know that insurers do deny claims, and they’ll let people die rather than live up to their part of the bargain if it costs too much or someone forgot to report the broken arm at the age of four), those who promote the superiority of for-profit health care (capitalism is better for all things, after all) will stay loyal to their insurance companies while everyone else actually gets health care.

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/QOEP6232OJ7PIZCAZ7NLSS64EQ Pat Jackson

    I am amazed at how you liberals think. The biggest cost problem with our health care system is lawyers and lawsuits. Both of which you liberals love. Go into any emergency room in a big city and look at all the people there who have colds, flu etc. They are not there because of an emergency, they are there because of free care. Guess who pays for this? Ask any Dr about insurance premiums and tests they run to avoid a lawsuit. All this and the wonderful Democrats had to pass Obama care to see whats in it. Unfortunatly, affordable health care was not. Get real liberals or someday it will all come crashing down.

    • drzaius

      I’m amazed that conservatives can’t look at the rest of the civilized world and realize that our problem is the one thing we do that no one else does.

      For Profit Health Care.

      Adding the profit element doubles our cost. Easily.

      • turtlewoman1039

        The key may be the ‘civilized’ part. Based on behavior & rhetoric during this election, and on-line comments, it appears that they live in fear of ‘civilized’.

    • turtlewoman1039

      Actually, the results of independent analyses have shown that litigation costs are a minute percentage of overall health care costs. Those are far exceeded by the profit and overhead charges of the health insurance industry.

      Don’t think that dr’s & other health care professionals make mistakes that could be life threatening? When my ex-husband had necrotizing pancreatitis, I was at the Brigham & Women’s hospital daily for months, staying with him and literally checking on his meds and care. Over the course of months I witnessed – and caught – several potentially serious to lethal mistakes. Understaffed, overworked, shift changes, all contributed to slips that could have had serious ramifications.

      Those people who are in ER’s for ‘free care’? They are there because they don’t have insurance: it isn’t available to them where they work, many times because employers deliberately keep hrs under a limit so as to make the employee ineligible for benefits; it is too expensive and they must make a choice between insurance or the cash necessary to keep a roof over their head & feed themselves. The ER is an expensive way to get care – for everyone. The hospital WILL pursue the patient for payment: the patient will be billed and it will be turned over to a collection agency when the patient cannot afford to pay for hundreds of dollars of lab tests, etc.

      Insurance companies do indeed deny payment for coverage that was in the contract – for profit companies are exactly that, and their priority is THEIR bottom line, not the health & well being of a policy holder. Yes, I do indeed know people who were denied coverage because the company used a technicality or some other way to get out of their contractual obligation.

      Medicare isn’t ‘free’ – my ex-husband’s Nana was in the program, and I did her bill paying, including insurance premiums. She was able to go to any dr necessary. THAT is the healthcare coverage that needs to be available to all.

      The current state of health care in this country, not covering millions of citizens and costing far more than other countries pay for care while having much poorer outcomes, IS NOT the result of ACA. It is the result of the profit driven model of health care that the republicans so champion. Just like the 30 yrs of ‘trickle down’ that didn’t, the ‘competitive capitalism’ model that the republicans have pushed for health insurance has resulted in the current condition of health care in this country. The solution is not more of the same, but single-payer health care that makes preventative care available to all, and gives everyone access to a PCP outside of an ER.

    • Edward Berry

      “Go into any emergency room in a big city and look at all the people there who have colds, flu etc. They are not there because of an emergency, they are there because of free care.”
      Also rugged individualistic individuals who didn’t buy health insurance because they wanted to be responsible for their own health care. Some percentage end up with a devastating illness that they can’t afford to treat, decide public health care isn’t so bad after all, and instead of checking into terminal hospice the head for the nearest emergency room. Obamacare takes care of both- everyone has health insurance, pays for it up front if they can afford it, colds get treated and a lot of preventative care gets done as routine care, and the emergency room is used for emergencies. Hospitals don’t have to charge double to cover those who can’t pay, so prices come down.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dominick.vila.1 Dominick Vila

    There are many reasons for the out of control increases in helthcare that have been the norm during the past several decades. High among them are: (1) Insurance companies, acting as middle men, and administering healthcare, for a fee. (2) The use of Emergency Rooms by those who for a variety of reasons do not have insurance coverage. (3) The consequences of millions of Americans not getting adequate preventive care as a result of not having insurance coverage and relying on emergency care to survive. (4) Inadequate claim controls to preclude service provider fraud. (5) Inability to implement a cost effective healthcare program because of greed and political ideology. (6) Unrealistic expectations and opportunism shown by those who seize the slightest opportunity to sue doctors and hospitals.

  • William Deutschlander

    It is called PROFIT, UNWARRANTED SALARIES and EXPENSIVE ADVERTISING of the health insurance companies.

    OBAMACARE needs to be merged with MEDICARE and rid the for profit insurers !

  • http://twitter.com/crystaldragon6 Donnalee

    Could be that doctors request expensive tests-that are not needed. And doctors that are paid vig by big pharma for getting patients on long term meds. OR could it be Overcharges by doctors & hospitals. Blood pressure-weight-use of stethescope-peer in ears, nose, mouth then give a scrip for meds. $500.00 to $1000.00 or More.TRY getting out of an office or hospital for less!

  • http://twitter.com/crystaldragon6 Donnalee

    There are doctors that DESERVE to be & SHOULD be sued. Like the guy that sent me home with the flu. An hour later I was in emergency surgery (at another hospital) for a bowel that had necrotized & burst. Puppy–I Tried to sue. But doctors protect their own.

    • SueTX

      Or the ER doctor who sent my husband home with 5mg Valium for his “strained muscle” without taking any X-rays that would have shown his broken hip. Or the ER doctor who gave my husband a sling for his aching shoulder/chest (when he had just come out of the hospital from having multiple hip replacement surgeries) and didn’t check for bloodclots. He was admitted the next day for multiple blood clots to both lungs.
      We didn’t try to sue – what would be the point?

  • kanawah

    The first thing is to get a single payer national health care system.

    Canada would be a good example. Canada gets better results across the board that the US does, and their system only cost about half of the US system.

    If you talk to Canadians that have used both systems, they choose to go with the Canadian system, hands down.

  • howa4x

    Here is why there is waste . 1st off we don’t have a health care system, we have an illness intervention system, since if you are healthy you never go there to get healthier. Most hospitals, doctors ins co’s and of course big pharma are all in the profit making business. Even a non profit hospital turns a year end profit. All the doctor groups are LLc’s and the partners share in the yr end profits. They make their money by ordering tests, and doing un necessary interventions. They give out big pharma products that hardly work but are wrought with painful and sometimes life threatening side effects, which casues the patient to go back for a second, third, forth visit. Sometimes the durgs are toxic and require a 3 month return to the doctor and always more and more tests. Doctors get paid for all that testing as well as admitting the patient to the hospital where they order still more tests. Hospitals charge a room rate like a hotel, and you pay for cleaning, and nursing care, and they take a cut on every test ordered, and of surgery preformed. Un necessary surgery is far too common which is another way doctors make a lot of money. Especially on the elderly and those over 60 who are alway getting new knees, or hips whether they need them or not. A set of new knees can cost 150k. INs co try to make a profit by denying you these services, not for your health but for their profits. Big pharma realized a long time ago that if they operate in the profit model they can’t make drugs that actually cure you, so they make drugs that maintain your illness. This is why people are placed on medication like insulin for type II diabetes, or high blood pressure pills. No body gets cured by these medicines and you could be on them for 20 yrs or more with payments to doctors for monitoring and big pharma for manufacture of more pills. Cancer is the biggest money maker in this system. The drugs are so toxic you’re hair will fall out. Survival rates are very low and they don’t even call it cured, just that the patient has gone into remission. All this after Nixon ordered the war on Cancer and the govt has spent hundreds of billions by giving it to big pharma to find a cure. But we know they don’t want to cure it, really, not when there is far too much profit being made, even though sometimes it’s just shorterm. How much chemo have they sold in the last 30 yrs? Alot!! Don’t you think with all that money they could have found a cure by now? Doctors make a bundle on this disease as well. Administering the toxic brew(paid) causing the ordering more and more tests and paid for each one, or radiation, paid again, and surgery, paid again. Hospitals make storage money and of course a cut of all the tests and constant surgeries, because when cut, burn and poison, is all they do there is lots of money for everyone to make. Rates for survival of some cancers haven’t moved upward in 20 yrs.

    Doctors never tell you that you can help cure yourself by eating right loosing weight, stopping smoking, and exercising, that’s heresy. Why don’t they teach you how to de stress or send you to yoga? It’s outside the money making circle that’s why

    In the end we are really to blame for high illness intervention costs. We can’t seem to pull the plug on mom or gandma. They may have dementia, or could be 100 and ware housed in a nuring home, but we are not paying so who cares, medicare or medicaid is. When they go into heart failure we demand they be saved, so they can rot some more. We can’t have an intelligent conversation about this because Sara Palin branded this kind of talk as death panels. The other way we are to blame is by our sedentary lifestyles. We want to eat till we’re obese, and expect that we can take some pill to save us. 1/2 half the world is starving and we need to diet . We have heart problems, but just give us a pill, no exercise for us, where is that sugar bun? The kids are now getting obese, and they will have diabetes and heart disease. But who will pay for them?

    We are in a national crisis and it’s us!!!

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Christopher-P-Doyle/1517044469 Christopher P Doyle

      30% of costs are for inappropriate and often harmful testing, surgery and drugs. That must go. Next is the cost of caring for those with horrific health habits. We need to either tax more, or charge higher premiums for the obese. We need the FDA to take dangerous drugs off the market, set standards for organic and food supplements, regulate the harmful chemicals that are put in pr0cessed foods, and limit the amount of sugar and salt as well. We need to take the cap off the number of young people allowed to enter Med schools each year. We need to start a paramedics group to perform primary care for both sickness and injuries at far lower costs w/o having to work for a Doctor or clinic. We need to establish caps on the reimbursement rates for all medical procedures, just as is the care for Medicare Patients. We need to do all those things, and more. We need to do them now.

      • howa4x

        I fully agree with everyting you say. We alo need to allow more holistic practices, or alternative care which the AMA is against. they are more like a union than, a professional organization. I call them the american murder assoc

  • http://www.facebook.com/zenda.watford Zenda Watford

    It is costly because of lobbying When Bush was in, he deregulated everything ,when that happens they charge what they want . That is why also gas, telecomunications , insurance food , banks , all because of deregulation . This is how all the money is flowing to the top. People making over $200,000.00 ,their incomes have increased 200% in the last 12 years because of the Bush tax cuts and deregulation . Now we have Grover Norquist holding the country hostage through the Republicans . Why are we letting this happen ?

  • Tired_of_poor_healthcare

    I agree with the comments about how greed and profit motive drive the system. It is also important to note how profit drives medical research (even NIH grants) and clinician education. If a healthcare solution is not profitable it is not pursued. Leaving sick patients and cost savings behind. The need to protect profit keeps many advances in the dark and pushes dangerous but profitable drugs and technology onto patients.

    Additionally, one of our biggest health problems is toxins in our air, water, food and work/living spaces thanks to a corrupt FDA.

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