Introduction

Intimidated by the health care system? Please don’t be!

My main goal in Wonkologist.com is to demystify the workings of the health care system. And, in this “crash course,” outline why health care is so expensive in the United States. You can get started here, through either a visual map or, if you prefer, a written outline.

Though it looks like a lot, the concepts here are all straightforward. The health care system may seem like it requires a lot of specialized knowledge to understand, but probably far less than you might think. And where you do need a few background facts to make sense of things, I’ll give them to you.

That said, the health care system IS complex. In fact, my secondary goal with this website is to convey the nature of that complexity. Understandable (which it is) unfortunately does NOT mean simple (which it isn’t). This is important to grasp. Politicians and pundits like to toss around easy cure-alls for our health care system; however, the nature of this beast is not one that lends itself to “quick fixes.” Complex problems require complex solutions. If someone tries to sell me on an easy solution for our health care cost crisis, I am quite skeptical. I hope that after reading through this page, you will share some of that skepticism.

As Aaron Carroll, one of my favorite health policy experts, has said, “If you were expecting a bad guy here, you’re going to be disappointed. There is no one thing to blame. There is no one fix we can make. It really is multifactorial.”

At the heart of this section of Wonkologist.com is a “map” of the factors contributing to increased health care spending in the USA. Some you have probably heard of before, some of them maybe not. These are all things that have been identified, by direct evidence from health care studies or by expert consensus, as pieces in the health care cost puzzle. Naturally, the relative importance of each factor is going to vary; I have attempted to suggest (based on my own personal sense of things, not at all evidence-based) the most influential in bigger boxes with larger text.

Click on each, and it will take you to an article explaining what that factor is, how it works, and how we know it is important. As you’ll see, a lot of them are inter-related. They give rise to each other, feed off of each other. I will provide resources in each case for those of you who want to learn more. I hope this will also show that I’m not making this stuff up! These ideas come from people far smarter and more expert in this field that myself.

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