Next Avenue: How to Lower Health Care Costs in America—5 recommendations from experts at a West Health summit
Part of the POLITICAL ISSUES AND POLICIES SPECIAL REPORT
As nearly everyone knows, America’s health care costs are astronomical and likely to continue rising. A Health Affairs study just projected national health care spending will grow an average of 5.5 percent every year through 2026. As Martin Gaynor, an economics professor at Carnegie Mellon University said at last week’s West Health Institute 2018 Healthcare Costs Innovation Summit in Washington, D.C.: “Health care spending is high and it is ultimately unsustainable.”
What can be done about it?
The answer to that question is critically important to all Americans, but especially to those in their 50s or 60s who “are some of the hardest hit by this health care cost crisis,” said West Health CEO and President Shelley Lyford. They tend to have high out-of-pocket costs; health care expenses can be a huge outlay in retirement, too. “For so many, one severe illness could mean financial ruin or even bankruptcy,” Lyford said. A recent RBC Wealth Management study estimated that a healthy 65-year-old couple today can expect to spend more than $400,000 on health care in retirement.
At the West Health summit, which drew around 500 attendees, Gaynor and numerous experts offered recommendations to bring health care costs down. (West Health is a family of nonpartisan nonprofits focused on health care research, policy and philanthropy.) Said Lyford: “We have a health care system that is draining our resources, weakening our country and limiting our ability to fulfill our most basic responsibilities to our citizens. It doesn’t have to be this way. We must do better.”