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Controlling Health Care Costs

Oct. 14, 2004
New England Journal of Medicine, 351;16 (Oct. 14, 2004)
Paul B. Ginsburg

While both presidential candidates have served up proposals to ease voter angst about the affordability of health care, neither candidate tackles the core issue of controlling health care cost growth, according to an article by HSC President Paul B. Ginsburg.

Per capita health spending increased 39 percent between 1999 and 2003 for privately insured people, while workers’ average hourly earnings grew only 14 percent. The main driver of health care spending increases over time has been new medical technology. Although many advances are extremely valuable, others have only slight benefits for patients and some are ultimately found to be harmful—the result of rapid diffusion without rigorous research on medical effectiveness of comparable treatments, Ginsburg notes. When health costs increase at a much faster rate than incomes, many people can no longer afford health insurance. Both presidential candidates have proposed ways to expand health coverage and keep coverage affordable, but both largely rely on increased government subsidies rather than proposals to slow underlying health care cost growth.

For a full copy of this article please visit the New England Journal of Medicine Web site.


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The Center for Studying Health System Change Ceased operation on Dec. 31, 2013.