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Bankrupt Health Care
How to Make Health Care Cheaper

Your world is getting cheaper. Aki Ito at Bloomberg Business has a post on “Six Things Technology Has Made Insanely Cheap” (h/t Michael Brendan Dougherty). A taste:

PCs have recorded the largest decline since January 1980 in the Bureau of Economic Analysis’ breakdowns. It’s a mind-blowing 99.9 percent price drop. The chart below shows the biggest share of the plunge taking place in the 1980s, but don’t be complacent: Prices are still dropping. In January, computers were 9 percent cheaper than they were a year earlier. […]

It probably doesn’t feel like it when you pay your monthly phone bill, but trust us, it would have been a lot worse if cell service hadn’t gotten cheaper. It’s now costs less than half of what it did in  January 1990.

Dougherty asks: “can we get some of these price trends in health and education?” Those are two industries, notably, in which technology has not (yet) made things cheaper. The phone service item is important because without it (and item number 5: securities commissions) the list is less a matter of six things technology has made cheap and more a collection of technologies themselves that have become cheap. For health care—which is also service—to become more affordable, America needs not only cheaper technologies themselves but also cheaper services. Meeting that need means breaking down regulatory barriers that keep costs high, supporting alternative care settings like clinics and mobile health, and empowering nurse practitioners to do more.

When you put those together with cheap technologies themselves and price transparency reforms, you could see costs come down in a real way for consumers. That’s the goal that a true coalition for health care reform could and should unite behind.

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  • Andrew Allison

    Health and education are (coincidentally?) the two most reactionary industries.

  • FriendlyGoat

    1) Either Democrats or Republicans could have led a coalition for price transparency decades ago. Oddly, we can only presume that lobbyists and contributors talked all of them out of such a silly little “consumer” thing.

    2) People are not sick when they buy personal computers, software, televisions, securities, cameras and cell phone service. That’s why people are able to take time to shop around and drive down prices by constantly looking to buy the most for the least. Health care is not the same, because people are often too sick to shop when services are needed. This is why we need every force in society EXCEPT patients doing the price monitoring. Employers, non-profits, insurers, consumer organizations and others should be doing the comparison shopping and publication all the time. But until government REQUIRES all price data on all medical transactions to be available in near real time for such research, nothing will change.

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