THE BLOG

Health Care in Crisis: Zeke and Gerard Weigh in Live from Aspen

05/25/2011 01:35 pm ET

-- "Cuba is doing better on some cancers than the US"

-- Technology is responsible for 50% of the increase in health care costs

-- NOT TRUE that 80% of health care costs are spent in the last year of life.
Only 10-12% of costs go to individuals in the year they die

Ezekiel Emanuel, the health care expert working for Obama and brother of Rahm Emanuel addressed health care reform today at the Aspen Ideas Festival along with a panel of experts.

The panel included Gerard Kleisterlee, the CEO of Philips, makers of electronics including medical technology and Tina Staley. Walter Isaacson, head of the Aspen Institute kept things lively as the moderator.

A controversy broke out between Kleisterlee and Emanuel about the role that technology plays in health care costs. Emanuel claimed that technology is responsible for 50% of the increase in costs.

"In every other field technology drives costs down except in health care," he said. "The rise in health care costs is not mainly from the aging population," he continued.

Kleisterlee disagreed and stated that "[device] technology is only 10% of the costs of health care, and of that imaging is only two percent."

Emanuel was included medicine in the technology bucket as well.

Emanuel said that "I don't want to be a reductionist, but the primary problem in health care is the financial incentive system." According to Emanuel, paying doctors as you would a seamstress -- by the piece-good -- is not the right system.

Kleisterlee added that "in Europe we spend 10% of GDP on health care and the US spends 17% of GDP." Emanuel explained this is due to: higher drug costs, more procedures, higher doctor wages. Emanuel said that this is not necessarily giving Americans better health care. "Cuba is doing better on some cancers that in the US."

On the dwindling numbers of GP's Emanuel said that it is remarkable that "most primary care physicians are not in long-term therapy."

According to Emanuel, the gap between GP's and specialists is so large that it is amazing we even have any GP's left.

Kleisterlee wrapped up the panel with the company line that "we want to help doctors provide patients with better outcomes."

The panel helped debunk some myths about healthc are costs, but did not really offer the outlines of a better system except to conclude that it is definitely not what we have today.

What should Obama do? Let me know your thoughts.