There seems to be always something lately in the newspaper about health care. But, just what is exactly discussed in Washington D.C.? Do regular people know about the topic? A quick search in Google confirms my expectation: the concept of “bending the curve,” as frequently discussed in D.C., is not as emphasized for most people not directly involved in the politics of health care. Instead, more articles are dedicated on just analyzing the bill and the overall system that we have in America.
Rising Cost Versus Expensive System
There is a crucial difference between discussing health care in terms of an expensive system and of the one with rising cost. The former requires case studies on the bill itself and careful analysis to the present system compared to those of other countries. This is not what this article is about because there is already plethora of articles in numerous sources in Google. Instead, I will be focusing on the rising cost of it in terms of the idea “bending the curve.”
Bending the Curve
Defining the terminology requires tracking back in the time for a bit. Frankly, I do not honestly know when this term was coined mainly because I, too, was not familiar with the term until this semester when a guest speaker who specialized in health care came to my institution and presented a lecture. Anyway, here is one instance that it was used by White House on February 26, 2009. Press Briefings by the Office of the Press Secretary stated, “The single most important thing that we could do, and the reason that I am committed to getting this budget done this year, is reform the health system so that we bend the curve on health care costs and thereby put the nation on a sounder long-term fiscal trajectory…”1
So, this “curve” that everyone has been talking about in D.C. does not refer to just fixing the cost for just next year or a year after that. It is a prediction for a quite bit of years, and hence, the White House used the phrase “fiscal trajectory” to represent this long-term planning. Ezra Klein from Washington Post provided a graph comparing the curves before and after the new health care legislation.2Here is the accompanying article with the graph, and I want to stress that I do not necessarily promote this graph or the article by any means. Instead, it is just one resource I came across while researching on the “curve.”
Why Does Curve Go Up?
Since the talk is on bending the curve “down,” then it is natural to suspect that our health care curve has a trend of going upward. The critical matter is that it is going upward with rather sharp slope, implying the rapid increase in the cost. So, why has the curve been going up this way for several years?
Jason Fodeman, M.D. and Robert A. Book, Ph.D. provided a nice editorial on this cost-curve analysis. They explained, “Whether measured by individual insurance premiums, average spending per person, total national spending, or federal and state government health spending, U.S. health care expenditures are growing faster than inflation, faster than average wages, and faster than the gross domestic product (GDP).”3
The purpose of this article was just to introduce the concept of “bending the curve,” something that I think everyone should know about. In the future articles that will follow this one, I will be analyzing four main causes that Fodeman and Book discuss in their article that I mentioned above. In addition, I will look for references from sources like Washington Post and The New York Times to provide another angle than this study.
1 The White House, Press Briefing by OMB Director Peter Orszag and CEA Chair Christina Romer, 26 Feb. 2009, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/press-briefing-omb-director-peter-orszag-and-cea-chair-christina-romer, accessed 30 Nov. 2010.
2 Erza Klein, “Does health-care reform bend the cost curve up?” Washington Post. 10 Sept. 2010, http://voices.washingtonpost.com/ezra-klein/2010/09/does_health-care_reform_bend_t.html, accessed 30 Nov. 2010.
3 Jason Fodeman, M.D., and Robert A. Book, Ph.D. “‘Bending the Curve’: What Really Drives Health Care Spending,” The Wall Street Journal, 19 Feb. 2010.