The health insurance cost paradox

Sep 19, 2012

I just spoke with RI health insurance commissioner Christopher Koller, who shared a repeat-worthy fact, and I quote:

Primary care is the only part of our delivery system where the more we have, the lower our overall costs are. We can’t say that about anything else. And yet, historically, we’ve only spent six percent of our dollars on primary care.

The idea is that if you spend more on primary care–hire more primary doctors (who are focused on being a patient’s first stop, seeing them regularly, and seeing them throughout their lives), invest in more prevention efforts, better manage patients with chronic illness–you’ll ultimately save more money because we’ll keep people from getting sick and catch problems earlier, when they’re easier and cheaper to treat.

But what isn’t clear to me is whether that can offset enough of the increase in costs for everything else. Health care services overall are just getting more expensive. And if we can’t tackle that side of the cost equation, how much will saving money actually help (not that we shouldn’t continue to try to save money, of course)?