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ACOG: Rising Health Care Costs Top Reform Agenda

Improving patient safety and appropriateness of care are other key goals

TUESDAY, May 6 (HealthDay News) -- The spiraling cost of health care should be the number-one priority of health care reform in the United States, according to a leading health care economist who delivered the Samuel A. Cosgrove Memorial Lecture, "The Future of Health Care," during the opening session of the 56th Annual Clinical Meeting of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists held this week in New Orleans.

Gail Wilensky, Ph.D., an economist and senior fellow at the health education foundation Project HOPE, and a former advisor to Congress on Medicare issues, discussed the most important reform initiatives to improve health care in the United States.

Increases in health care spending have been outpacing inflation over the last 40 years, a trend that simply cannot be sustained, according to Wilensky, who explained that containing health care costs should be a major focus of reform efforts. Other important reform initiatives include improving patient safety and appropriateness of care. Wilensky cited data that patients on average receive about 55 percent of procedures and treatment that are clinically appropriate.

"If we don't find a way to slow spending down -- not reduce spending, but slow it down -- this spending growth will put tremendous pressure on the federal budget and also on the rest of the economy," commented Wilensky, adding that "health care spending exacerbates the already huge problem of access to health care for millions of Americans."

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