NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Introduction to "Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs"

Ana Aizcorbe, Colin Baker, Ernst R. Berndt, David Cutler


This chapter is a preliminary draft unless otherwise noted. It may not have been subjected to the formal review process of the NBER. This page will be updated as the chapter is revised.

Chapter in forthcoming NBER book Measuring and Modeling Health Care Costs, Ana Aizcorbe, Colin Baker, Ernst Berndt, and David Cutler, editors
Conference held October 18-19, 2013
Forthcoming from University of Chicago Press
in NBER Book Series Studies in Income and Wealth

Medical care costs accounts for nearly 18% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 20% of government spending. As a country, we know a lot about where the medical dollar goes. Thirty-eight percent of medical care dollars are paid to hospitals, 31% is paid for professional services, 12% is for outpatient pharmaceuticals, and so forth. But this is not really what we value. The goal of medical care is not to poke, prod, or take pictures of our insides; rather, it is to improve our wellbeing. To really understand health care, we need to determine what it is doing for our health. Health accounting is not easy. Academics and statistical agencies have struggled with it for decades. Questions range from the mundane – how do colonoscopy prices vary across payers? – to the fundamental – to what extent is medical care improving the population’s health? With this much uncertainty about the value of medical care, it is incumbent on public and private researchers alike to regularly survey the landscape. What do we know about medical care costs and output? Where can we make improvements in our measurement systems? What areas remain unexplored? These issues are studied in this volume.

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This paper was revised on February 10, 2017

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