While the United States grapples with the challenge of health care costs that contribute to high rates of poor-quality care, burdens to business competitiveness, and looming government deficits, clearly there are areas in which health care spending does not add to the health of individuals and communities. The polarizing political environment makes it difficult to conduct rational public discussions about this issue, but clinicians and consumers can change the nature of this debate to the potential benefit of patients, the medical profession, and the nation. The initial focus should be on overuse of medical resources, which not only is a leading factor in the high level of spending on health care but also places patients at risk of harm. In fact, some estimates suggest that as much as 30% of all health care spending is wasted.
Christine K. Cassel, MD, James A. Guest, JD