One of the biggest problems with healthcare in America is not who does not have it, but how much waste there is in the current system.

A groundbreaking research study released recently, conducted by Humana, reveals $1 out of every $4 spent on health care in the U.S. annually is being wasted, totaling nearly $300 billion in waste annually! This is what really needs to be addressed if we want to find a practical and affordable healthcare solution for all. No proposal, from the right or the left, can successfully provide efficient healthcare, without first confronting the problem of this systemic wasteful spending.

The Humana study was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study puts a spotlight on the nearly 25% of our country’s annual total health-care spending that can be deemed as waste. Dr. William Shrank, Humana’s chief medical and corporate affairs officer, led the study identifying the extent of waste in the system. But he also found a silver lining in the results. Dr. Shrank said this study shows that “in the national debate about health reform, we don’t need to start over. We can build on the strengths of today’s system … while also producing the necessary savings to expand coverage to all Americans,” by finding ways to reduce or eliminate much of this waste.

Shrank went on to say, “As a health plan, we realize that we have a role to play. A physician’s administrative complexity may be the result of a health plan’s efforts to coordinate care and assist in reducing redundant or unnecessary clinical costs — for example, when a health plan requires prior authorization. However, no one wants to produce this waste, and we all want clinicians to have the time to focus on what matters, caring for patients.”

According to a survey by the American Medical Association, for every hour a physician spends with patients, they spend nearly two additional hours on administrative tasks throughout the day. “We know we have a role to play in alleviating this burden, and we are already partnering with providers to do just that,” said Shrank.

Shrank concludes that “efforts like these [to reduce waste] make it easy to be an optimist. But what I’m really inspired by is the potential to address systemic waste across the health-care system, through providers, payers and governmental agencies partnering on improving the efficiency of the system — ultimately improving the affordability of health care for Americans, without having to start over.”

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