Today's Supreme Court decision upholds the most important step toward universal health insurance coverage in nearly 50 years. Now, policymakers should focus on moving forward by refocusing their attention on the heart of the issue: overspending in the health care system, argues Shannon Brownlee, director of the New America Foundation's Health Policy Program.
"Today's ruling is good news, but an even bigger task still lies ahead," Brownlee said. "We've got to improve the quality of care and ensure that it's affordable."
The out-of-control health care industry today threatens to consume one-fifth of the American economy and blow a hole in the long-term federal budget. More than half of all health care expenditures provide no value - representing $1.5 trillion a year in wasted spending, according to a 2008 study by the consulting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.
In addition, health insurance premiums have increased four times faster than general inflation over the last decade. Another study finds that rising health care costs have added 2 percent to the rate of unemployment. And, if trends continue, over the next 70 years health care entitlements will double the federal budget as a percentage of gross domestic product, leaving less for other crucial parts of the budget like defense, education and infrastructure.
Wasteful health care spending is central to the federal government's plunge into debt, and it directly threatens our national economic security. The most significant choice we can make to improve healthcare is to focus on reducing waste and curbing the delivery of unnecessary medical services, which increase costs and harm patients.
To read more about Brownlee's thoughts on the health care industry, click here. To set up an interview, please contact Clara Hogan at 202-596-3368 or firstname.lastname@example.org.