Alexander: To Reduce Billions in Health Care Waste, We Should Spend Less on Unnecessary Expenses

Posted on July 17, 2018

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2018 — Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) today said that one way to reduce health care costs in America is to “stop spending money on unnecessary medical tests, services, procedures, or medications.”

Alexander made his remarks today at the Senate heath committee’s second in a series of hearings on how to reduce health care costs, focused on reducing excess health care spending or unnecessary health care, and improving quality and value for patients.        

Alexander said, “Our focus today is on reducing wasted health care spending, which is important given the estimated amount we spend on unnecessary services, excessive administrative costs, fraud, and other problems is a great, big number – $750 billion in 2009, or as much as 30 percent of our total health care spending, according to the National Academies.”

“Unnecessary spending is a burden on the health care system and on the patients who undergo tests and procedures that may not be medically necessary – and who are then stuck with the bill,” Alexander continued. “Wasted health care spending also can come from not spending enough money on preventive care.”

Alexander used the story of a retired engineer in Tennessee who suffers from a number of health problems – diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, and chronic pancreatitis – who visited Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s emergency room 11 times last year and had to be admitted to the hospital three times.

This kind of pattern is a flag for the Vanderbilt Familiar Faces program, which was started in 2017 to identify patients with chronic diseases who make frequent visits to the emergency room and clinics, often resulting in expensive hospital stays. The program works to help these patients reduce the amount of time they spend in the hospital by developing a plan to help patients better manage their chronic conditions by receiving regular care and treatment. After participating in this program, the retired engineer has been able to avoid the emergency room completely, instead only visiting an outpatient clinic twice.

See Alexander’s full prepared remarks here.

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