The United States spends about $4 trillion on health care every single year. And compared to other wealthy nations, this number proves astronomical and inefficient.
Moreover, recent research conducted by researchers at Dartmouth, Stanford, and Yale has provided the first-ever nationwide analysis of health care spending disparities between the three primary funders– Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers.
This collaborative effort was launched in order to ascertain whether different regions have simultaneous low health spending or if specific factors increase health spending depending on the funder. The research, which has since been published in JAMA Network Open, analyzed spending data for over one hundred million individuals.
It found that health care spending per payer significantly varies across the nation. Additionally, there are virtually no areas in the U.S. with simultaneous low spending among Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers.
Instead, the researchers discovered that distinct factors are driving regional health spending variation across every payer segment in the nation– and believe the stark differences point to three different health care systems within the country.
For example, what regions spend on private insurance versus Medicaid had an extremely low correlation of twenty-one percent. Moreover, private insurance correlated even less to Medicare at two percent.
“What this tells me is that, in essence, we have multiple different health systems in the U.S.– the Medicare program, the Medicaid program, and private insurers,” began Zack Cooper, the study’s co-author.
“This means that we are going to need payer-specific policies if we really want to move the needle on increasing productivity of health care. We have a complex health care system; this means we are going to need a nuanced policy to be effective,” Cooper continued.
In order to make this happen, though, policymakers will have to adhere to a long and incremental path toward health care efficiency.