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Ginsburg Testifies Before U.S. Senate Finance Committee on Health Care Costs

No Silver Bullet to Make Health Care Cost Containment Painless

News Release
June 3, 2008

Alwyn Cassil (202) 264-3484 or

WASHINGTON, DC—How the United States finances health care and our pervasive unwillingness to confront the difficult trade-offs inherent in containing costs, improving quality and expanding coverage contribute to the seemingly intractable problem of stemming rising health care costs, economist Paul Ginsburg, Ph.D., president of the Center for Studying Health System Change (HSC), told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee today.

"Reflecting on the U.S. experience with health care cost containment, what is striking is the consistency with which leaders in both the public and private sectors have avoided the idea that real cost containment involves real sacrifice-patients going without services that may provide some benefit, or physicians, hospitals and insurers settling for smaller incomes or profits," Ginsburg testified at a hearing of the U.S. Senate Finance Committee on "Rising Costs, Low Quality in Health Care: The Necessity for Reform."

In his testimony, Ginsburg made three main points:

  • By any measure-per-capita spending and share of gross domestic product (GDP), for example-U.S. spending on health care is greater than other developed countries. In 2006, the United States spent $2.1 trillion, or 16 percent of GDP, on health care, translating to $7,026 per person annually. But unlike other developed countries, which provide near-universal coverage, 47 million people in 2006, or 15.8 percent of the U.S. population, were uninsured.
  • The enormous amount of money spent on medical care in the United States does not appear to buy us outstanding health. Again, by almost any measure, ranging from infant mortality to preventable deaths, the United States does not measure up well against other developed nations.
  • Cost-containment and quality-improvement efforts are essential if Americans are to get better value for the tremendous amount of money spent on U.S. health care and to avoid an increasing proportion of our society lacking access to mainstream care.

Ginsburg’s testimony is available online at

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The Center for Studying Health System Change is a nonpartisan policy research organization committed to providing objective and timely research on the nation’s changing health system to help inform policy makers and contribute to better health care policy. HSC, based in Washington, D.C., is funded principally by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and is affiliated with Mathematica Policy Research, Inc.



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The Center for Studying Health System Change Ceased operation on Dec. 31, 2013.