For the past few years, we’ve been spending less on healthcare, and experts have been trying to track why this is happening. If the current trend continues, we can expect to see a great reduction in healthcare spending.
The most obvious explanation is the recession. When more people can’t afford health insurance, or the out-of-pocket costs to meet a plan’s deductible, they pay for less healthcare. But, putting off seeing a doctor until it’s an emergency could mean higher healthcare costs eventually.
One explanation may surprise you. Since U.S. healthcare prices are the highest in the world, medical tourism is increasing. Americans can get treatment, even surgery, in other countries for a fraction of the cost they’d have to pay here at home. Even prescriptions can be ordered from overseas now.
There’s also evidence that banning smoking in public places has cut the harmful health hazards for people who don’t voluntarily smoke. Reduced exposure to second-hand smoke, and the third-hand smoke particles that stay on hair, skin and clothing, has been related to rapid declines in heart attacks for people working in restaurants and bars now that smoking is prohibited there.
Whatever factors are slowing healthcare spending, the one factor we want to see is prevention. Experts have shown that 80 percent of the chronic diseases that alter the most lives in the U.S. can be prevented, treated and sometimes even cured without medical intervention. Healthy whole foods straight from the backyard vegetable garden are full of “medicines” to fight some of the most troubling diseases of our time.
Wiley Long is President of HSA for America, and a passionate advocate for consumer-based solutions that will improve price transparency and lower health insurance and medical costs for people purchasing individual and family health insurance plans.