American health care: Why so costly?

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Author: The Commonwealth Fund

Date of publication: June 2003

Summary: Rising health care costs are of concern to policymakers, employers, health care leaders, and insured and uninsured Americans alike. The U.S. has relied on a mixed public–private system of insurance, managed care, and market competition to shape the health care system. Yet, the U.S. has the highest health care spending per capita in the world, and during the 1990s health spending in the U.S. rose faster than in other industrialized nations.

The key to containing costs—as well as getting higher value for what we spend— may well lie in fundamental changes in the supply side of the market. We need to shift our attention to reducing errors, eliminating waste and duplication in clinical care, modernizing and streamlining administration, promoting transparency and accountability for performance, and aligning financial incentives for physicians, hospitals, and other health care providers to reward high-quality and efficient care.

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