Health Economist Jack Meyer Calls for ‘Better Health at Lower Cost’

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In his new book, Dr. Meyer proposes a series of policy reforms that encourage evidence-based medical practices and lower fees and charges.

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A portion of the savings is plowed back into high-value investments in health, continuing the upward spiral

A new book by health economist Jack Meyer, “Investing in Public Health: A Life-Cycle Approach,” proposes sound investments to achieve these twin goals. Dr. Meyer, a health economist who has authored several prior books and about 100 reports and articles on health reform, is a Managing Principal in the Washington, D.C. office of Health Management Associates.

This book presents the concept of a “positive life spiral,” in which carefully targeted investments result in better health outcomes, health care savings, and more people working productively. This lowers public assistance costs and broadens the tax base. A portion of the savings is plowed back into high-value investments in health, continuing the upward spiral.

Many of the new investments address forces outside of our health care system. Following a life-cycle approach, Dr. Meyer presents specific recommendations in these areas: prenatal care, childhood immunizations, and timely health care screening tests; family preservation; early childhood education and greater educational attainment; smoking cessation; reductions in obesity, pollution, and poverty; healthy aging; and helping more people participate productively in the work force.

Meyer proposes that the United States invest $50-$100 billion annually in a new “High-Value Investments to Improve Public Health” Trust Fund. This Fund would be fully financed, primarily by a series of strong health care policy changes. These reforms include abandoning the obsolete and cost-generating fee-for-service payment system; developing modern ways to assess the value of advanced medical technology; practicing medicine in multidisciplinary teams; and taking our major health care spending programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, and health-related tax benefits, off their current “auto-pilot” growth path.

Meyer notes that the incentives in health care system reward an ever-increasing volume of services, including an explosion in diagnostic imaging studies, and a “bricks and mortar” approach to health care that frequently favors building new hospitals and other health care facilities with little regard for actual local needs. The federal government routinely approves expensive new technology with insufficient attention to potential harms and no attention to its cost. This is followed by the proliferation of this technology across the patient population, including many patients who are well served by existing technology.

Government health programs, insurance plans, and many employers purchasing health care underwrite enormous differences in the price of health care services, such as by paying the same proportion of the bills for services such as hip and knee replacements, or colonoscopies, that may vary in price by as much as 10 to 1, even though the higher bills are not justified by better quality or fewer complications.

This book presents compelling facts that shore up the author’s call for redirecting resources from expensive outlays with a thin or nonexistent evidence base to investments with modest price tags and a potentially huge positive impact on the health of our population. Meyer estimates that the U.S. is on track to spend about $37-38 trillion on health care over the next decade under a “business-as-usual” approach. Yet, only 3% of US spending is devoted to prevention, while hundreds of billions of dollars are wasted each year on health care that is inappropriate and wasteful.

Investing in Public Health: A Life-Cycle Approach * by Jack Meyer
Publication Date: April 3, 2014
Trade Paperback; $41.99; 58 pages; 9781493178971
e-book; $3.99; 9781493178964

Members of the media who wish to review this book may request a complimentary paperback copy by contacting the publisher at (888) 795-4274 x. 7879. To purchase copies of the book for resale, please fax Xlibris at (812) 355-4079 or call (888) 795-4274 x. 7879. For more information on self-publishing or marketing with Xlibris, visit To receive a free publishing guide, please call (888) 795-4274.

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