Medical innovation pitched as key to lower healthcare costs

Government and business officials on Wednesday called for greater investment in medical research as a way to keep the U.S. competitive, create jobs, and even lower healthcare costs.

The officials made the case for greater medical innovation at an event sponsored by the Council for American Medical Innovation (CAMI), which argues that the United States is losing its competitive edge because of deficiencies in science education, public investment and regulatory processes.

"When you think about it, medical innovation can best be characterized as a human and economic value proposition that our nation simply cannot turn down," former Secretary of Health and Human Services and CAMI co-chairman Mike Leavitt said in a statement. "In short, value for our economy, for our competitiveness, for our ability to create jobs, and above all, for our long-term health and wellness."

The event was headlined by Aneesh Chopra, the country's Chief Technology Officer, and featured several leaders from the business and healthcare communities. In conjunction with the event, CAMI released a poll that suggests the public wants more government support for medical innovation: 

• 58 percent of respondents favored more federal spending on research;

• 74 percent supported incentives and reforms to the tax code, such as an expansion of the research and development tax credit; and

• 66 percent believed that more medical innovation could lead to lower overall healthcare costs as costly diseases are cured or prevented.

Many health experts question that last assertion, however; U.S. healthcare spending — already the highest in the world — has been rising steadily and made up a record 17.6 percent of the economy in 2009.

"That belief is not particularly proven by the academic literature," said Karen Davenport, director of health policy at the liberal Center for American Progress. "What the poll shows is more of our cultural attitude towards innovation."

Davenport said innovation advocates who want to see healthcare costs drop should be rooting for provisions in the healthcare reform law that call for comparing the efficacy of different treatments.

"Hopefully we will be developing far more information on whether the new drug or the new device is actually better," Davenport told The Hill. "Culturally, we have faith in technology but having evidence is more important."