Examining Factors Contributing To Health Spending Growth

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

The Medicare Payment Advisory Commission on Friday examined some of the factors contributing to U.S. health care spending growth, CQ HealthBeat reports.

According to the briefing papers presented by two staffers, overall health care spending between 1999 and 2008 increased by 50%, compared with 20% in other economic sectors, the staffers said, while health care sector construction spending rose slightly more than 50%, compared with less than 20% in other sectors. Imaging centers and home health care both experienced the largest employment growths at 50% each, compared to a 25% growth in overall health care employment and 5% in other sectors.


MedPAC Vice-Chair Robert Reischauer said that while the data presented at the meeting was "very interesting," it also "tells us absolutely nothing about whether this is good or bad, whether it's too much or too little, whether it's growing too fast or about the right amount, or whether it's sustainable or unsustainable." He said he was concerned about how Congress and the public would receive the data and whether the information would divert attention away from the necessary changes to U.S. health care policies.

Commission Executive Mark Miller said that commissioners also should focus on the benefits of construction spending in the health care sector and whether they meet the objectives proposed by policy analysts. Miller asked, "Thirty billion [dollars] was spent last year on construction -- how much of that went to mental health, how much of that went to manage diabetes, how much of that went for IT?" He said answers to such questions are needed to develop better health care policy.

Commission members also agreed on the need to focus on eliminating waste in the health care system (Reichard, CQ HealthBeat, 10/6).

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