March 11, 2017

WHEN CONSUMERS HAVE NO SKIN IN THE GAME:

The Staggering Cost of Medical Waste in America (Marshall Allen, 3/10/17, ProPublica)

The vexing riddle of how to make health care more affordable has seldom been more front and center on the national stage. President Trump and Republican lawmakers are wrestling with the future of the Affordable Care Act, which has helped millions of people obtain health insurance. But most Americans would rather their legislators focus on bringing down health care costs, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Two-thirds of those surveyed said reducing such costs should be the "top" health care priority for Trump and the Republican-led Congress.

Talk to experts and many agree that waste would be a good place to start. In 2012 the National Academy of Medicine estimated the U.S. health care system squandered $765 billion a year, more than the entire budget of the Defense Department. Dr. Mark Smith, who chaired the committee that authored the report, said the waste is "crowding out" spending on critical infrastructure needs, like better roads and public transportation. The annual waste, the report estimated, could have paid for the insurance coverage of 150 million American workers -- both the employer and employee contributions.

"It's unconscionable that we're not only wasting money in health care but in doing so are sacrificing other important social needs," Smith said.

Smith's committee blames the obvious villains -- overtreatment, excess administrative costs and high prices -- for most of the fat in the system. Left untallied, however, are the discards that arrive in waves into McLellan's warehouses, most of which would otherwise end up in landfills. McLellan estimates the goods her group has right now are worth $20 million. Sure, that's a rounding error in the overall waste tab, but it starts being real money if you add up the discards of all the nation's medical facilities.

Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco Medical Center, for instance, recently estimated that in a single year the hospital wasted $2.9 million in neurosurgery supplies alone. 

Posted by at March 11, 2017 5:49 AM

  

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