The Reasons Why Americans Pay More for Health Care

In the past one hundred years, great revolutions have been conducted on the health care area. However, the highest medical technology does not bring the healthiest life to Americans; instead, it brings the most expensive cost. This literature reviews the reason why health care is more expensive than any other countries in the world. Paying More, Getting Less

Americans spend about $2.7 trillion on healthcare annually, and about one-third of healthcare costs, roughly $750 billion, do not improve health outcomes. The cost of American health care is rising so rapidly that it is predicted to reach $4.2 trillion, roughly one-fifth of American gross domestic product, within six years. Americans spend $300 billion a year on pharmaceutical drugs — that’s almost as much as the rest of the world’s total expenditure on medication. Americans pay much more, yet their health outcomes are worse. For the first time in the history of this country, life expectancy is going down for many disadvantaged Americans.

One American dies every twelve minutes due to lack of insurance or access to quality healthcare. About 65% of Americans are overweight and this statistic ties into the big one: almost 75% of American healthcare costs are currently spent on preventable diseases that are the major causes of disability and death in this society. The high price of healthcare affects all the people in the United States, even if they are already covered by health insurance. As costs come out of control, individuals are the ones who make up the difference. The first step in changing the system is to understand that the current model is unsustainable. Treating the Whole Person

Your body is not a car, but that’s often how it’s treated when you take it into the doctor’s office. People fix the broken parts, one at a time. Americans have a disease-care system, not a healthcare system, a system that rewards fragmented care rather than holistic care, specialists over general practitioners. Almost every study agrees that your primary care doctor is the doctor that matters most when it comes to staying healthy. But we don’t treat these “quarterbacks” of the healthcare system like they’re the most important players on the team. Primary care physicians earn about half as much as specialists. Even as their job descriptions grow more complex, the system gives them less and less time to spend with each patient. There’s a revolving door of patients coming through your primary care doctor’s office, which means he or she can’t spend time getting at root causes.

Most doctors only have time for quick fixes, for putting Band-Aids on the problem. It’s not necessarily your doctor’s fault. He or she would love to spend more time with you. But the system pays for quantity but not quality, for tests and treatment and not holistic care for patients. Doctors need to keep their doors open, and the only way to make more money is to see more patients. And some patients don’t even have a primary care doctor; they still go to the emergency room for even costlier care. The federal government, states, and communities are beginning to establish innovative ways to encourage doctors to go into primary care, whether by forgiving some of their massive medical school debts or by shifting the way they’re compensated. Some programs train nurse practitioners and other healthcare professionals to take on some of the work traditionally done by doctors.

In any of these options, the emphasis has to be on patients and giving them increased access to primary care so that a single doctor — your quarterback — can get to know you, spend time with you, and treat the whole body instead of repairing one part at a time. When it comes to making these repairs, we need to expand our tool kit. High-cost, high-tech treatments are not sustainable solutions. Often low-cost, high-touch treatments work just as effectively. We need the healthcare system to provide incentives for leading healthier lifestyles, changing our diets, and being open to holistic methods of healing that can address the body and the mind — in other words, the whole person. PREVENTING DISEASE

75% of healthcare costs go to treating diseases that are largely preventable. That’s a lot of unnecessary money and a lot of unnecessary illnesses. For too long, the American healthcare system has emphasized tests, screening, and awareness of disease. While these practices might lead to earlier detection, they’re no match for true disease prevention. The uptick in preventable disease is closely related to our changing eating habits. We’ve subsidized all the wrong foods: processed, corn-based products rather than fruits and vegetables. We’ve made unhealthy food the cheapest, and we’ve become more sedentary. As a result, Americans are getting heavier and heavier, which leads to Type II Diabetes, heart disease, orthopedic problems and a host of other conditions.

As Americans have grown unhealthier, they spend more and more healthcare dollars. Right now 20% of patients account for about 80% of costs. So if we can focus on treating these patients and keeping them out of the hospital, everyone stands to gain. It can be done. The effects of healthy living have been proven. A study has been performed to show that lifestyle changes including exercise, eating healthier, reducing stress, and social support can actually reverse heart disease and, in some cases, slow the spread of cancer. We don’t have to wait for disease to set in to live healthier lives. If we can make fresh food as cheap as processed food, and if we can live more active lives, we can curb disease before it ever has a chance to strike. But we need support: from our workplaces, from our communities, and from our healthcare system.

Foroohar, R. (2013, 11 21). Why Healthcare in America Is So Expensive. Retrieved 2 24, 2014, from TIME: Fox, M. (n.d.). What makes U.S. health care so overpriced? It’s not what youthink. Retrieved 2 24, 2014, from NBC News: Froemke, M. H. (Director). (2012, 10 15). Escape Fire [Motion Picture].

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