As a precursor to the bipartisan White House health care discussion on February 25, the Center for Health Transformation is hosting the American People’s Online Health Summit. The intent of this ongoing blog is to provide all Americans an opportunity to say what they want out of the health care talks and to hear about solutions from health care experts.

The cost of health care in the U.S. remains one of the most frustrating aspects of the system. The American people spend a staggering amount on health care each year. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) estimated the U.S. spent $2.3 trillion (or more than 16 percent of the entire economy) in 2009 alone on health care. The CHT blog provides a forum where Americans can discuss the issue of cost, how it affects them, and what reforms are necessary to lower cost while not sacrificing the quality of their health care.

Throughout the debate on health care reform undertaken by the Obama administration and Congress, not enough focus has been placed on curbing the overall cost of the system. CMS projects that total health care spending will double to $4.5 trillion per year by 2019 and consume nearly 20 percent of the U.S gross domestic product. This level of spending is untenable and must be addressed directly and appropriately.

During our blog focusing on the cost of health care, myriad creative solutions are being offered. These innovative ideas come from both the public and private sectors – indicating just how much this issue should be a priority.

Individuals like U.S. Rep. Michael Burgess M.D., former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and James Gelfand of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce present critical solutions. Scott Serota, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association, and Merrit Quaram, M.D., CEO of Qmedtrix Systems, provide proven solutions in the industry. Perhaps more impressive is that Americans continue to pour in ideas to solve this critical dilemma.

Solutions sought for immediate reform include undertaking medical liability reform efforts, changing incentives to provide the best possible care, enforcing the adaption of technological advancement in health care, and others. For example, Texas has saved $574 million in liability insurance premiums as a result of similar reforms, as noted by Congressman Burgess.

Participant Isaac commented, “There are alternatives to paying trillions for the government to look at what their computer tells them about the most intimate details of your life and then decide what treatment you should get from their underpaid doctors.” Additionally, participant Larry House noted, “If everyone could pay their health care premiums directly to the hospital system where they live or work that would reduce health care costs by 30%-40%. Then you would have the health care system and professionals not only providing health care but administering it as well.”

While the American People’s Online Health Summit continues, it is clear that cost remains one of, if not the, most important aspects of health care reform. Numerous ways to achieve this goal exist, and policymakers must incorporate real cost-saving measures into any legislation in order to accomplish true reform.

Vincent Frakes, National Policy Project Director, Center for Health Transformation.