Health Care

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

The Small Business Dilemma

When it comes to health care, American small business owners are getting a raw deal.  While the current insurance marketplace offers some options to larger employers, it too often leaves small business owners on the outside looking in. They face unpredictable changes in costs, and far too often they are forced to choose between covering employees and the very survival of their businesses.

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

New Report: Health Care Reform Can Save Georgia $73 BILLION

Press release for a Georgia PIRG report that provides estimates for how much various cost-saving proposals can reduce health spending – all while improving the quality of the care we receive.

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

The $3 Trillion Question

Without health care reform, the United States is projected to spend over $40 trillion on health care in the next decade.  Experts estimate that thirty percent of that spending – up to $12 trillion dollars – will be wasted on ineffective care, pointless red tape, and counterproductive treatments that can actually harm patients.    

As a result, American families and businesses are weighed down by high premiums that continue to increase twice as fast as inflation.  Meanwhile, cost-benefit analyses performed by the Business Roundtable show that, dollar for dollar, we get less for our health care spending than the rest of the industrialized.

Health care reform holds out the golden promise of addressing both of these problems at once.  By aligning incentives within the health care system in favor of quality treatment, by investing in health information technology, and by conducting better research on which treatments work for which kinds of patients, we can make health care both more affordable and higher quality. 

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Consumer Group Praises House's Introduction of Strong Health Care Reform Bill

A recent Georgia PIRG report identified increased support for comparative effectiveness research (CER - medical research into which treatments work best for different kinds of patients) as one of the touchstones for increasing quality and lowering costs. The draft legislation provides ongoing funding for this research and ensures that findings will be disseminated to doctors.

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Gaps in Medical Research Result in Poorer Care and Higher Costs

A new report by the consumer watchdog U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) finds that for the majority of medical conditions, no studies exist that determine the most effective course of treatment among all available options.

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

The Facts About Comparative Effectiveness Research

As Congressional and public debate over health care reform grows more intense, comparative effectiveness research (CER) has emerged as an unlikely flashpoint of controversy. Opponents’ claims that CER results in the rationing of health care or a government takeover are belied by the true nature of such research: it is simply fundamental scientific research of medical treatments aimed at determining the most effective ways to treat sickness and injury. It is the basis of all advancements in the field of medical science and has been used throughout history to improve medical treatment. The results of such research are used to create treatment guidelines, which are then incorporated by physicians in determining the best course of care for each individual patient.

The tremendous need for this research is made clear by studies showing that only a minority of medical treatments currently being used are supported by valid research. As medical innovation accelerates, and new techniques, drugs, and devices enter the market daily, the need to gauge the effectiveness of these innovations increases.

Failure to use effective treatments results in worse medical outcomes and higher medical costs, resulting from the need to re-treat patients or to address complications following ineffective treatment. Evidence-based medical protocols, developed from the findings of CER, have been shown to yield cost savings and improvements to patient health.

A recent report released by the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies concluded that “the country needs a robust CER infrastructure” and listed the top 100 priority topics for comparative effectiveness research.

Opponents claim that CER will mandate doctors’ treatment options. Generating data on effective medical treatment is a separate issue from the use of that data. These studies are a tool that can assist doctors in determining the best treatment for their patients, in conjunction with their own knowledge of the unique needs of each patient. In some cases, the results of CER indicate that there is in fact a best practice that should be followed in nearly all circumstances. In others, research can help establish which kinds of patients are most likely to benefit from which treatment options. Doctors and care providers should be encouraged to keep current with effectiveness research findings and use them to improve patient care.

Much of this research today is conducted or paid for by the manufacturers of the drugs or medical devices being tested. Such research has been shown to be biased toward a finding that the drug or device is beneficial. Thus it is necessary that CER be funded by neutral parties who do not have an economic interest in the result. The federal government is ideally situated to perform such research and to fund nonprofit institutions to do it.

To improve patient care and reduce the costs of unnecessary and improper treatment, the federal government should expand its funding and support for comparative effectiveness research.

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Putting America Back to Work

As the national health reform debate begins in earnest, some pundits have suggested that America cannot afford to invest in health reform. The resounding response from political and thought leaders has been that America can't afford not to.

Report | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

Health Care in Crisis

Unless the new Congress and Administration act to reduce health care costs, the yearly cost of the average employer-paid family health policy in Georgia is projected to more than double from $10,793 in 2006 to $22,796 by 2016 even after adjusting for inflation. If recent trends continue, wages and household incomes will simply not keep up with these high costs. Nor will the business sector be immune to this crisis.  Unchecked, this cost epidemic could also severely impact the small businesses that drive job creation in the Georgia’s economy.

Unfortunately, too much of these astronomic costs are going to enrich special interests, not buy the best health care.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that nationally as much as one third of health care spending is wasted and does not improve outcomes. That means that, in 2007, one out of every three dollars that Americans spent on health care, or $730 billion, went to the insurance bureaucracies, drug companies, medical device manufacturers, and providers without improving a single person’s health.  In Georgia, one third of health spending amounts to $13.7 billion.

This report examines three important sources of this unproductive spending.  We conclude with a package of urgently needed reforms which target those causes, improve quality of care, and rein in this unnecessary spending.  As part of comprehensive health reform, these policies will enable America to emerge from this crisis with a health system that consumers and businesses can afford and families can depend on.

News Release | Georgia PIRG Education Fund | Health Care

House Passes Prescription Drug Safety Reforms; Senate to Follow

The House today passed significant reforms to the Food and Drug Administration’s drug safety review system.

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