In most markets, paying more buys better quality. When you pay $400 for a night in the Four Seasons, you expect to get a better room and better service than you would at Motel 6. But in health care, the normal rules of economics don't apply. The American health care system ranks in the bottom third of developed nations. American medicine kills 100,000 patients a year through medical error and our health statistics are on a par with the Czech Republic and Chile -- yet we spend twice as much per capita on average as any other developed country.
Shannon Brownlee, author of Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Us Sicker and Poorer, argues that as much as a third of every health care dollar, about $700 billion a year, is wasted on care that patients don't need -- and would probably avoid if they knew how useless and dangerous it is. California spends more per capita on unnecessary care than any other state except New Jersey. If we want to control costs and improve the quality of care, the ongoing efforts to cover the uninsured in the state should include payment reforms aimed at reducing over treatment.
Shannon Brownlee is a writer whose stories, essays, and opinion pieces about medicine and health care have appeared in such publications as The Atlantic Monthly, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, Slate, Time, Discover, BusinessWeek, Washington Monthly, The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and The Wilson Quarterly. As a Schwartz Senior Fellow at the New America Foundation, Ms. Brownlee’s work focuses on the U.S. health care system, and the cultural, economic, and political forces that result in poor quality and high cost. She has written extensively about the lack of scientific evidence for many medical practices, and the problem of unnecessary care, which accounts for as much as a third of the nation’s health care bill. Her new book, Overtreated: Why Too Much Medicine is Making Americans Sicker and Poorer, is published by Bloomsbury Press.
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