19 May Even With Expanding Health Care Budget, Spending on Primary Care Remains Flat
MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Sara Martin, MD, MSc
Santa Rosa Family Medicine Residency Program
Santa Rosa, California
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?
Response: To improve access to comprehensive primary care, we need to understand how much is being spent on primary care. Until recently, the United States lacked any data-based estimate of primary care expenditure. This study utilizes Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS)data from 2002 – 2016 to estimate the percentage of healthcare expenditures that was spent on primary care.
Most discussions around health care expenditure in the U.S. focus on the fact that we spend more than any other country and do not have the corresponding outcomes to match that investment. This paper focuses the conversation around the distribution of the expenditure.
MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?
Response: The main finding is that as total health expenditures have increased, primary care expenditure has remained relatively stable at 6.6%. Furthermore, it has decreased as a percentage of total expenditures and contributed little to the overall growth in healthcare spending.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: A growing body of research has shown that expenditure on primary care improves outcomes while decreasing costs. Yet, this study illustrates a relatively low expenditure on primary care across different administrations and major healthcare reforms. So, we need to ask ourselves as a nation whether the current distribution of healthcare dollars is producing the best outcomes for our society, and whether it is financially sustainable for our country.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?
Response: Two states (Rhode Island, Oregon) have mandated measurement and targeting of primary care expenditures and other states are considering related bills. This study has set a rough benchmark for the current level of the spending on primary care in the United States, but there is still no common shared definition of what should be included in primary care expenditure. As research and legislation moves forward, careful attention will need to be paid to the different definitions used and the implications of each.
Martin S, Phillips RL, Petterson S, Levin Z, Bazemore AW. Primary Care Spending in the United States, 2002-2016. JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 18, 2020. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2020.1360
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