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The Health Cost Slowdown: Credit Where Credit’s Due

August 14, 2013
4:31 pm

It’s no longer fresh news that health cost increases are undergoing a considerable slowdown.  The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has presented statistics showing a historic decline in Medicare per-beneficiary spending growth and a Robert Samuelson column last week in the Washington Post noted that overall healthcare prices are undergoing the slowest rate of increase in half a century.

The lion’s share of commentary we see on these trends tend to fall into either of two camps.  Some argue that we’re already seeing the beneficial effects of an Affordable Care Act that is far from fully implemented.  Others say that the cost slowdown is a side effect of the nation’s lengthy period of economic doldrums and that consumers, many of whom are unemployed or underemployed, are postponing or foregoing medical spending.

Another possible contributing factor, that doesn’t receive a similar level of chatter, is that health care companies and providers have made significant strides in elevating the cost-efficiency of care and improving patient outcomes.  This is happening in myriad ways including, but certainly not limited to, new steps to reduce hospital-acquired infections, advances in biopharmaceutical and technological interventions, strides in emphasizing wellness in the workplace and innovative uses of health information technology and digital communications to expand healthcare’s reach beyond the clinic and the hospital.

We have chronicled many of these episodes of progress – with documentation of dollars saved and lives affected – in our HLC Value Compendium and Wellness Compendium.

And this is an issue we’ll continue to discuss in this space because, in discussing the current healthcare cost slowdown, we shouldn’t overlook the impact of progress and innovation.

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