Controlling Health Care Costs

The United States spends far more on its health care system compared to the rest of the world. Eighteen percent of the nation’s economy is devoted to health care—50 percent higher than the country with the second-highest proportion of health expenditures (the Netherlands) and nearly double what many other high-income countries spend.

Despite all this spending, Americans’ health outcomes are often worse than those in other advanced nations, and there is ample evidence of waste and inefficiency. Evidence also shows that U.S. prices are out of line with what people elsewhere pay for the same medical services, devices, and pharmaceuticals. This is true even for products made in the U.S. and sold on global markets.

This level of spending puts a strain on businesses, governments, and household budgets. It also diverts resources away from job creation, education, and other social and economic needs.

The Commonwealth Fund’s Controlling Health Costs program monitors and analyzes spending in the public and private health care sectors. It seeks answers to two central questions:

  • What is driving higher or lower costs and spending in health care markets across the country?
  • What policy reforms, innovations in care delivery, and changes in provider payment have the potential to reduce costs while improving outcomes?

Patients with high needs and high costs—such as those with multiple chronic conditions or serious mental health problems—are a special focus of research. Additional projects investigate how new medical technologies and changing demographics affect health system costs and what role prices, market structure, treatment patterns, and resource use play.

Program contact:

Shawn Bishop, Vice President

expert spotlight

Shawn Bishop
Shawn Bishop
Vice President, Controlling Health Care Costs and Advancing Medicare, The Commonwealth Fund

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