While overall growth in health care spending has moderated in recent years, costs are expected to continue to rise due to changing demographics and the aging baby boom generation, the growth in chronic illness, advances in medical technologies and the structure of our health care system.
If health care spending is not slowed, we will all pay the price – health care providers, the government, insurers and employers – both our generation, as well as our children and our children’s children.
So what can we do about it?
Over the past year, the AHA Board of Trustees has looked for answers to the question of how to slow health care spending.
With input from our regional policy boards, governing councils and committees, the board determined that policymakers should focus on two interconnected strategies to improve the health care system and ensure the financial viability of our nation’s health care programs as we tackle the federal debt and deficit: First, promote and reward accountability. We need to restructure the system in a way that promotes and rewards accountability – to patients, their families and their communities. This includes engaging individuals in their health and health care. Second, use limited health care dollars wisely. We need to focus on using limited health care dollars in ways that eliminate inefficiency and improve the quality of care for patients.
Recommended changes are laid out in the latest report from the board, “Ensuring a Healthier Tomorrow: Actions to Strengthen Our Health Care System and Our Nation’s Finances.” This list is not exhaustive, but it’s a starting point of initiatives and activities stakeholders can take together. There are many things providers need to do, but we cannot do it alone. We need others – government, insurers, employers, and individuals – to do their part. The stakes are high, and the time to act is now.
In fiscal crises, lawmakers repeatedly turn to cutting Medicare and Medicaid spending, almost always by reducing provider payment. But arbitrary ratcheting of provider payment will not put us on a sustainable path for the future, nor improve care; we need real targeted reforms, not blunt cuts to provider payments.
Please take a look at this important report (to read it, visit www.aha.org/healthiertomorrow).
By focusing our efforts and taking responsibility for those things we can control, and challenging others to do likewise, together we can ensure a healthier tomorrow. Umbdenstock is president and CEO of the AHA. Watch his message on “Ensuring a Healthier Tomorrow” by clicking on the video icon. Excerpts from the AHA report are featured on these pages.