Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the accounting firm, has a branch called the Health Research Institute.
According to CNNMoney, a recent study by that research institute found that over half the $2.2 trillion the United States spends on health care each year is pure waste.
That's right, Pricewaterhouse Coopers says our medical system wastes $1.2 trillion per year. Now, one could argue with what the firm considers waste, but some of the bigger numbers that stood out according to businessinsider.com are:
1) Too many tests - $210 billion per year wasted.
2) Inefficient claim processing - $210 billion.
3) Using the ER as a clinic - $14 billion.
4) Medical errors - $17 billion.
5) Discharged patients too soon - $25 billion.
6) Infections from hospital stays - $3 billion.
7) Staffing turnover - $21 billion.
8) Writing prescriptions on paper - $4 billion.
9) Over-prescribing of antibiotics - $1 billion.
The largest single category of "waste" identified by the research institute was $493 billion because of "risky behavior" by patients, like smoking, obesity and alcohol abuse.
Now, we're not certain this last item can be categorized as "waste" because certainly the patients have the conditions necessitating the treatment even if their own behavior caused them. And, somehow, we think history shows it is not easy to get people to stop smoking, overeating or drinking.
But, in the first nine categories, there is over half-a-trillion dollars that could be saved - almost 25 percent of the total we spend each year on health care.
The country is never going to get a handle on health care costs until waste and fraud are addressed seriously. Why isn't that in the forefront of the government's health care efforts?
(Note: A version of this editorial has appeared previously in The Maui News)
* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.