Reducing Waste in Health Care

A third or more of what the US spends annually may be wasteful. How much could be pared back—and how—is a key question. 

Health care spending in the United States is widely deemed to be growing at an unsustainable rate, and policy-makers increasingly seek ways to slow that growth or reduce spending overall. A key target is eliminating waste—spending that could be eliminated without harming consumers or reducing the quality of care that people receive. According to some estimates, this may constitute one-third to nearly one-half of all U.S. health spending.

Waste can include spending on services that lack evidence of producing better health outcomes, compared to less expensive alternatives; inefficiencies in the provision of health care goods and services; and costs incurred while treating avoidable medical injuries, such as preventable infections in hospitals. It can also include fraud and abuse, which was the topic of a Health Affairs/RWJF Health Policy Brief published on July 31, 2012.

This Health Policy Brief focuses on types of waste in health care other than fraud and abuse; on ideas for eliminating it; and on the considerable hurdles that must be overcome to do so, and was published online on December 13, 2012 in Health Affairs.

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One-third to one-half of annual U.S. health spending may be wasteful