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"Kidding Ourselves" about Consumer Directed Health Care Strategies

"Kidding Ourselves" about Consumer Directed Health Care Strategies

July 7, 2005

I know she's not a household name -- but Katherine Swartz, Professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, is one of the smartest thinkers around on the flaws and
weaknesses of the current health cost strategy of "consumer directed health care" (aka -- "faith based health insurance" ... you have to pray you don't get sick.) Here's the conclusion to Katherine's new article in the journal, Inquiry:

"There is no question we need to slow the growth in health care spending to have monies for priorities beyond health. Relying on a strategy of consumer-driven health care implies that a focus on “small ticket” items will achieve that. However, this is only true if people seek medical care less often. The trouble with this strategy is it also increases the likelihood that people will not visit physicians who might catch “unseen” health problems that often lead to high-priced medical care if left unchecked. Hypertension, high cholesterol levels, even creeping weight gains all come to mind."

"Since the vast majority of health care spending goes for a tenth of us, a much greater gain may be found in refocusing on health problems that cause high expenditures. Being overweight or obese, for example, greatly increases a person's chances of developing diabetes, which raises the odds for stroke, kidney problems, vision loss, and circulatory problems. All these contribute to high spending. Community or statewide efforts to publicize the dangers and costs of such problems—akin to what has been done over the past 40 years to reduce smoking, and has been supported by insurers, employers, and governments—might do more, at less cost, to reduce avoidable medical spending."

"Ultimately, we have to confront the fact that much of what drives health care spending is out of consumers' hands. When people become ill, the costs of their care quickly climb beyond today's high-deductible levels. Consumer-driven health care is not going to curb spending for these people. We're kidding ourselves if we think otherwise."

Check out the full article by clicking here.