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Common Methods to Lower Health Care Costs

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Common Methods to Lower Health Care Costs

By taking an international perspective and looking to other advanced industrialized countries with nearly full coverage, much can be learned. While methods range widely, other OECD countries generally have more effective and equitable health care systems that control health care costs and protect vulnerable segments of the population from falling through the cracks. Among the OECD countries and other advanced industrialized countries, there are three main types of health insurance programs:

  • A national health service, where medical services are delivered via government-salaried physicians, in hospitals and clinics that are publicly owned and operated—financed by the government through tax payments. There are some private doctors but they have specific regulations on their medical practice and collect their fees from the government. The U.K., Spain, and New Zealand employ such a system.
  • A national health insurance system, or single-payer system, in which a single government entity acts as the administrator to collect all health care fees, and pay out all health care costs. Medical services are publicly financed but not publicly provided. Canada, Denmark, Taiwan, and Sweden have single-payer systems.
  • A multi-payer health insurance system, or all-payer system, which provides universal health insurance via “sickness funds,” used to pay physicians and hospitals at uniform rates, thus eliminating the administrative costs for billing. This method is used in Germany, Japan, and France.

A universal mandate for health care coverage defines these systems. Such a mandate eliminates the issue of paying the higher costs of the uninsured, especially for emergency services due to lack of preventative care. Other methods for reducing costs may include:

  • Funding health care costs in relation to income rather than risk or people’s medical history.
  • Negotiating the price of prescription drugs and bulk purchasing of prescription medications and durable medical equipment is a method used in other countries for lowering costs. This has been effectively used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Medicaid, and Health Management Organizations in the U.S. Yet, it has been prohibited by law from traditional Medicare. Savings of up to five percent of total health care expenditures could result from the full adoption of these practices.

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