Steps Toward Lower Cost, Higher Quality Health Care

(Vic: Flickr)

(Vic: Flickr)

No one seems to have a problem with shopping for the best price when it comes to a new computer or a car. But there’s something about shopping for health care prices that seems different. It’s also a lot harder. Prices aren’t transparent. The L.A. Times reported earlier this month on the challenges individual patients can have in trying to find the best price.

At the same time, consumers have become more concerned about cost. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, premiums for family coverage have more than doubled in the last ten years  — 113 percent — and the share the worker pays of the premium is up even more — 131 percent.

The cost of health care has been going up, faster than the rate of inflation. The federal health care overhaul takes aim at this problem and seeks to lower cost and improve quality of care at the same time. One program gaining traction is through focusing insurance design on value. For example, some plans reward healthy behaviors, such as quitting smoking or exercising regularly. Continue reading

Do No Harm — And Keep An Eye On Costs

By Kaiser Health News staff writers

The American College of Physicians startled and astonished the medical establishment when it released an updated ethics manual calling for doctors to provide “parsimonious care” – in other words, “to practice effective and efficient health care and to use health care resources responsibly.”

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

(Image: Kaiser Health News)

This recommendation, included in the January 3, Annals of Internal Medicine special supplement, drew immediate reaction – and not just because of its use of the infrequently heard “parsimonious.” It’s been viewed as a definitive statement of medical ethics directed at the organization’s 132,000 members – physicians who practice internal medicine and its related specialties, among them cardiology and oncology, that often involve expensive procedures. And, the guidance comes at a time when health care costs are central to the national policy debate. Continue reading