The term “healthcare” has come to encompass every aspect, service and device for maintaining and improving your health. It includes physician offices, hospitals, diagnostic and treatment centers, physical therapy centers, pharmaceutical companies, labs and radiology services. It also includes group purchasing organizations, pharmacy benefit managers and combinations of insurance/PBMs/pharmacy all seeking to control costs and provide the best care to patients. It is in the interests of all to allow this large landscape to embrace the efficiency and fairness of free market competition. This will lead to outstanding quality, lower prices and many choices for patients.
The question is how to achieve this in the face of a highly politicized and entrenched industry that has been conscripted by political ideologues and third parties to promote their pet projects. The fact of the matter is that health outcomes are the result of the combined actions and choices of all of these players. Despite the best intentions and efforts of many individuals, a complex, interdependent system like healthcare is inherently difficult to manage and optimize.
A major reason for this is that a system like healthcare is inherently irrational and subject to self-serving agendas, incentives and conflicts of interest. It is a massive industry with many moving parts that are very expensive to maintain. As such, the industry is prone to over-regulation and excessive spending on activities that have little evidence of impact on health outcomes.
In fact, when compared to other high-income countries, the U.S. performs worse on most measures of healthcare outcomes, including infant mortality, life expectancy at age 60 and 30-day in-hospital mortality following stroke. While the performance gap is wide, it is not unprecedented. Over time, all nations have evolved different approaches to healthcare that are influenced by the historical and cultural influences in their societies.
This has led to a mix of public and private systems. The United States has a hybrid of these, with more privatization than most other developed nations. Most providers do not work for the government and most people get their healthcare through employer-sponsored health insurance plans or programs such as Medicare.
While the US has a mixed approach, one thing is clear: healthcare is not cheap. In fact, the cost of healthcare is continuing to increase worldwide due to advancements in medical technology and procedures, higher wages for physicians, increased patient demand for more extensive and better care, a growing aging population, sedentary lifestyles and poor nutrition all contributing to chronic diseases that require more intensive treatment.
To reduce costs, consider a health savings account (HSA). Contributions to an HSA are tax-deductible and the funds can roll over year-to-year. HSAs can be used to pay for a variety of preventive care services, as well as coinsurance and deductibles for covered medical expenses. Compare the benefits of an HSA with other types of insurance to see which is the best fit for your family’s needs. You may be surprised at how much you can save!