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Hearing Of The Special Committee On Aging- Achieving Health Reform's Ultimate Goal: How Successful Health Systems Keep Costs Low And Quality High


Location: Washington, DC

Good morning, and thank you all for being here. Obviously there's a lot happening
on health reform. The debate is shifting and progressing every day, and we've
been at this a long time. Today our committee will discuss one of health reform's
most important goals, which is to get health care costs under control.
The United States spends $7300 dollars per person, per year on health care, while
the other 29 most-developed countries spend an average of just $2900. That
means we are spending nearly two-and-a-half times what they spend. It is
unacceptable that we have so much more of our money tied up in health care
when we are not delivering demonstrably better health care than many of these
countries: studies show that the U.S. ranks below average on major health
indicators, including infant mortality and life expectancy, when compared to the rest
of the world, and we will hear more about this today.
Several of our witnesses will shed light on the ways in which other nations deliver
high quality care at a cost much lower than we do in the United States. We must
be willing to learn from the many examples of successful health care systems
around the world that are doing it as well as or better than we are.
But it's also vital that we understand why our health care costs are higher. Our
panel of witnesses will outline some of the reasons we pay more for physician
services, prescription drugs, medical equipment, and hospital services. We also
expect to learn about why our administrative costs are so much higher across the
board. In 2004, the United States paid more than seven times the average of other
developed countries in administrative costs.
Very importantly, we'll also hear today about the need to reconfigure our health
care system in a way so that it prioritizes the quality of the care provided instead of
the amount of care provided. In other words, value of care over volume of care. I
support the provisions included in the Senate Finance Committee health reform bill
that would transform the Medicare system to pay for value over volume, and I am
hopeful that they remain in the final health reform bill.
But more must be done in order to get health care costs under control. With so
many industries and special interests tied up in our health care system, reigning in
health care costs is not an easy task. I urge my colleagues to be open to the
lessons we hope to learn today, and take them into account as we make tough
decisions and carry health care reform through to the finish line. If we pass a piece
of health reform legislation without sufficiently addressing the issue of health care
spending, we will have failed.
Thank you all once again for your participation today. It is an honor and a pleasure
to now turn to my new partner on this Committee, our Ranking Member, Senator
Bob Corker.

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