Medical Technology Raises Health Costs, Study Finds
"Unfettered" use of new medical technologies may account for one third of projected increases in health care spending over the next five years, a study conducted by Project HOPE for the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association of America and Health Insurance Association of America concluded. The study's authors said that its findings should "signal policy makers [to] build incentives into the health care system -- including shifting more health care costs onto consumers -- that encourage more responsible use of expensive technologies" (Reuters Health/News Rounds, 3/7). The study -- which examined spending patterns for nine "new and emerging technologies" -- predicted that medical advances' "upward impact on health costs" will continue during the next five years, "at perhaps a slightly higher pace than the average trend for the 1990s." The advances are expected to account for 25% to 33% of the expected 6% to 7% annual increase in personal health care expenses between 2001 and 2005 (Mohr et al., "Impact of Medical Technology on Future Health Care Costs," 2/28). HIAA President Chip Kahn said, "Technology has produced major advances in health quality, but these advances come with a cost. Consumer choice also drives up physician and provider costs" (HIAA release, 3/7).
Writing that technological advances "may be cost effective if used in appropriately selected individuals," the study states that the "challenge to policymakers and the insurance community is to put in place the incentives for more appropriate use of technology" (Impact of Medical Technology on Future Health Care Costs, 2/28). Reuters Health reports that others question the study's ability to predict spending. Dr. John Feussner, chief research and development officer at the Department of Veterans Affairs, asked, "How can you forecast about a technology that hasn't been studied yet, even thought it has been invented?" (Reuters Health/NewsRounds, 3/7). The study is available online at http://membership.hiaa.org/pdfs/FinalReport.pdf. Note: You must have Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the study.This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.