April 18, 2014

Brain MRI

MRI brain scans. Credit: Paulette Brown / Flickr Creative Commons


Is it time to stop talking about Obamacare?

Regardless of how you feel about the law itself, it’s distracting us from a bigger discussion about the health care crisis, according to Amitabh Chandra, Professor of Public Policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.

“I think Obamacare is a bit of a red herring if one is talking about the larger share of GDP that we spend on healthcare,” says Chandra.

So, what is causing health care costs to soar? In a word: technology.

“As new medical technologies are developed and as they diffuse, spending growth increases because some of these technologies are fabulously expensive,” explains Chandra.

But why aren’t medical technologies just getting cheaper, like phones, DVD players, and other gadgets? Chandra says their cost is going down, but a wider spectrum of patients are being treated, which causes costs to go up.

Despite the looming financial crisis, there are some straightforward solutions, including changing the way we pay for health care.

For example, insurance premiums could be tied to the technologies provided by a specific plan. “So I, in other words, should have the choice of signing up for a plan which has very expensive premiums,” Chandra elaborates, “because it covers frontline treatments for cancer.”

The reverse would also be available, in Chandra’s scenario. “I could create another plan that actually is a lot cheaper. It covers cancer, but it doesn’t cover the frontline treatments.”

Chandra is optimistic that the need to change the status quo will eventually force politicians to form alliances. "The U.S., I think, at the end of the day will manage this challenge faster than other countries will. In a lot of other countries, they would have just raised taxes to pay for all the new health care. In the U.S., because we have no appetite to raise taxes, we're going to have to deal with this challenge in the next five years."

Want to know more? Listen to the full interview above.

Business, Amitabh Chandra, Obamacare, Affordable Care Act, Body & Mind, health care, healthcare

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