Bending the Health Care Cost Curve: Focusing Only on Federal Budget Outlays Won’t Solve the Problem

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The spotlight in Washington on the federal budget deficit has renewed debate over how best to control health care costs. Recently released budget-reduction proposals, most notably from the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform and the Bipartisan Policy Center’s Debt Reduction Task Force, include options for reducing federal health spending. In a new <a href="/blog/2011/bending-health-care-cost-curve-focusing-only-federal-budget-outlays-wont-solve-problem">blog post</a>, Karen Davis, Cathy Schoen, and Stuart Guterman of The Commonwealth Fund say that, although the proposals contain several ideas that merit consideration, their focus on reining in federal spending, rather than health spending overall, could simply shift costs from the federal government to state and local governments, businesses, and families. <br /><br />To truly address rapidly growing health care costs in both the public and private sectors, the authors say the United States must reform its fragmented and misaligned financing system. They suggest, for example, that Medicare could act in concert or partnership with private insurers to address factors contributing to rising costs, leveraging the combined purchasing power of all payers to achieve value for money spent and slow the growth in health care costs. <br /><br />"We must be sure to design sensible and effective solutions that achieve savings without sacrificing access to care for our nation’s most vulnerable populations or undermining innovation and quality of care," the authors write. <br />