For all its faults, American health care does many things right — we are not starting from scratch and don’t need a grand overhaul.  The bad news is that our health care system costs too much, covers too few, is rarely efficient, is often negligent, and focuses too much on treatment and not enough on prevention, says R. Bruce Josten, executive vice president for Government Affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

The best way to reduce costs is to prevent the need for services in the first place, and you can only do that through wellness and prevention programs, says Josten:

  • Many employers have stepped up to the plate by starting walking groups, subsidizing or providing gyms, offering smoking-cessation plans, and switching to healthier foods in cafeterias and vending machines.
  • The Milken Institute estimates that a reorientation to preventive medicine could save about $1.1 trillion.

We need to expand and support the employer-sponsored system, which is the foundation of health care for more than 177 million Americans:

  • Millions of the uninsured work for smaller businesses that can’t afford health benefits.
  • Congress needs to pass small group market reforms so that these companies can pool risk and purchase coverage at an affordable price.

A further reduction in cost can be achieved by implementing health IT.  New technology development and deployment requires investment.  But there is a simple way to free up some money that is already in the system — we need to stop the trial bar from using our health care system as an ATM, says Johnson.

Trial lawyers have built a litigation machine that drives up prices and drives health care providers out of the profession:

  • One major study found that as many as 40 percent of the medical malpractice cases reviewed were groundless.
  • Liability is a big reason that an estimated 93 percent of doctors are engaging in $210 billion worth of defensive medicine per year.
  • Creating specialized Health Liability Courts would remove medical malpractice claims from the tort system.

Source: R. Bruce Josten, “Advancing health care,”, October 20, 2008.

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