Growing Health Cares Costs Partially Because of New Medical Technology

February 24, 2005 – Posted at 3:40 p.m. CST

JONESBORO -- The United States tab for health care is one of the highest in the industrialized world. It's expected to hit $3.6 trillion dollars by 2014, making up nearly 19% of the entire U.S. economy, and that's up from 15.4% from what it is now.

"We're always looking for the most cost effective way to treat our patients which provide quality outcomes here in the medical center," said Chris Barber, Administrator at St. Bernards Medical Center.

The hospital houses millions of dollars in new technology, but with the rising cost of health care, they are always looking to save money wherever possible.

"Every patient that we cure, we cut the health care cost because if you can cure the patient in the long run you don't have the costs of chronic care," said Dr. Loverd Peacock, Medical Director of the Ben E. Owens Cancer Treatment Center.

Health care spending is rising so quickly that by the year 2014, the nation's spending for every man, woman and child in the united states will be more than $11,000 dollars, up from the current cost of $6,423. One of the reasons administrators say the cost of health care is rising is because more Americans are living longer and they're also searching for a better quality of life.

"You can see the aging of the baby boomer generation, which is a large number of individuals reaching the point where they are requiring more health care services," said Barber.

Growing health care spending is expected to outpace economic growth through the next decade. But St. Bernard officials say it's a balancing act.

"These technologies are expensive, are they worth it? Yes, because we cut down on the amount of side effects and we increase the cure," said Dr. Peacock.

"I think the question really comes down to what are you willing to spend? Because there are a lot of technologies out there that the federal government are looking at, but does it extend life? Does it improve the quality of life? And what's the appropriate use of that technology?" said Barber.