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Cost Of Treatment Driving Up Health Care Expenses

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Health care costs have been growing rapidly for decades and researchers from Virginia Tech and American University say they've figured out why.

The group looked at health spending costs in this country from 1980 to 2006; one of the longest studies of its kind. They found it wasn’t an increase in the incidence of disease, although that has risen slightly. The biggest jump came in the cost of treatment.

"There are these new technologies that arrive treating heart attacks such as angioplasties and stents as ways to treat people with heart conditions, definitely raise the cost of treating heart conditions," says Ana Aizcorbe, a research professor at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech. "So health economists think that is what are driving the costs and doctors use them and that is why more is spent today than in 1980."

Aizcorbe says another takeaway from this study on the rise in healthcare costs is the recent growing emphasis on preventative care. But she says there too, it’s hard to measure benefits when you try to match money spent with quality of life.

The World Health Organization has been looking into something called "quality life years." That is whether this clear increase in spending on treatment is worth it.

WAMU 88.5 is licensed to American University.


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