Unnecessary Risky Care Costs Us $700 Billion A Year

To continue the discussion initiated by Ceci Connolly’s article in the Washington Post, “U.S. Not Getting What We Pay For” (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/29/AR2008112901025_Comments.html) and extended by Jane Brody in the NY Times (http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/06/health/06brod.html?scp=1&sq=more%20isn’t%20always%20better%20in%20coronary%20care&st=cse). Many invasive procedures are unnecessary, costly, and risky. A good example is coronary angioplasty. About 2 million are performed annually in the U.S. However, about 500,000 are inappropriate; elective procedures not to save a patients life, but to alleviate symptoms such as angina where medications could have done the same job. Other expensive, risky and elective procedures include, coronary artery bypass surgery, MRIs, Cesarean Sections, back surgery, etc. As long as we are insured and doctors are paid by procedure, patients will undergo these treatments. However, as we become more self insured, “consumer-directed” healthcare participants, we should begin to ask whether such procedures are necessary and whether there are better and less expensive treatment options. This should help to bring costs down and result in safe, quality healthcare.

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