Harvard Health Letter

Additional information about cutting health care costs

The Health Letter prepared a chart listing medications available as generics in some forms and doses but as brand-name-only drugs in others: www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Health_Letter/2009/March/Genetic-and-brand-name-drug-inconsistencies

Link to a Philadelphia Inquirer story about a study showing that hospital-acquired infections are associated with large increase in medical costs: www.philly.com/inquirer/breaking/news_breaking/20090122_Get_hospital_infection__It_will_cost.html

Link to a talk about health care costs and behavioral economics given in August 2008 by Peter Orszag, director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in the Obama administration. Orszag was head of the Congressional Budget Office when he gave this talk, which he reprised several months later when he delivered the Marshall J. Seidman Lecture on Health Policy at Harvard Medical School.

Orszag, who as OMB director is in a strong position to influence any health care reform proposals put forward by the Obama administration, makes several interesting points. First, workers would demand more efficient health care if they knew the full cost of it, but that cost is often "hidden" because of the American system of employer-based health insurance. Second, doctors control medical decisions — and therefore the money spent on medical care — and those decision are often heavily influenced by professional norms. Third, research that compares medical interventions (the buzzword is comparative effectiveness) is needed but that won't change the cost of health care unless it is accompanied by aggressive promotion of standards. www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/96xx/doc9673/Presentation_RRC.1.1.shtml