For decades we’ve heard dire warnings that a swelling tide of aging baby boomers is poised to swamp the U.S. healthcare system, driving up costs and threatening the viability of government and private insurance programs.
But a new study published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association strongly undercuts the assertion that an aging population is primarily to blame for soaring health care costs. Instead, the study concludes, the overwhelming share of increased health expenditures can be traced to the higher prices that hospitals, medical professionals and drug companies charge to treat a wide swath of illnesses, from cancer to depression.
The study comes as the debate over how to reform the U.S. healthcare system remains possibly the single most contentious issue in American politics. The Affordable Care Act — the 2010 law currently at the epicenter of that storm — includes provisions meant to both trim costs and improve care. These measures include steps like cracking down on Medicare fraud, cutting reimbursements to hospitals with high readmission rates, and fining hospitals for poor care.
Opponents of the law have argued that the cost of caring for the tens of millions of new health care beneficiaries under Obamacare will outweigh these savings.
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