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Wednesday, December 6th 2006

The Market & Medicine

I don’t know how any can doubt that removing the patient from the costs inflates spending. The real question can only be, how much is this contributing to America’s rising healthcare costs?

In the early 1960s, the average American paid out of pocket one of every two dollars that he spent on health care; today the figure is one dollar in seven. The inevitable effect is hugely wasteful spending (and inflated hospital bills like mine). In fact, per-patient costs have gone up almost exactly in inverse proportion to the share of spending borne by the consumer.

Dr. Gratzer cites a remarkable Rand Corp. study that tracked health-care spending by 2,000 families over eight years. The families who got free health care spent 40% more than the families with cost-sharing arrangements. And yet the health outcomes for the two groups were the same. The lesson: Market-based health insurance systems, such as health savings accounts, cut out inefficiencies and lower costs without compromising quality.

H/T Medical Rants