Rising health costs: The effect of a 'more-is-better' attitude

Healthcare costs will continue to be out of reach for many Americans as long as patients believe that "more care" equals "better care." At least, that's the opinion of New York Times economics columnist David Leonhardt, who argues that more knowledgeable patients and value-based rewards are just two steps toward righting healthcare's sinking economic ship. 

Specifically, Leonhardt talks about a "three-step process" that ultimately would lead patients to say no to excessive treatments more often: 

  • Providing patients with access to information about the most effective treatments.
  • Arming each patient with all of the facts about a given treatment. This sometimes results in patients opting for a less aggressive, less risky (and less costly) course of action, according to Leonhardt.
  • Tweaking the system so it rewards the quality of care rather than the quantity of care.

"Advocates for less intensive medicine have been too timid about [pushing patients to say no more often]," Leonhardt writes. "They often come across as bean counters, while the try-anything crowd occupies the moral high ground. The reality, though, is that unnecessary care causes a lot of pain and even death." 

Allowing hospitals and drug companies to continue having a "blank check" as far as tests and treatments are concerned ultimately will bankrupt Medicare, he says.

"Can we solve the entire problem of rising health costs by getting rid of needless care? Probably not," he says. "But the money involved is not trivial, and it's the obvious place to start." 

To read more:

- read the full New York Times column
- read this Philadelphia Inquirer editorial