Bending vs Lowering the Curve

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I saw some discussion of this point on twitter yesterday, and it’s pretty easy to clarify with a chart full of made-up numbers. The point is that there’s a difference between “bending the curve” on health care costs—i.e., lowering the rate of increase—and lowering the level of health care costs:


Think of the blue curve as business as usual. The yellow curve represents a one-time lowering of costs that doesn’t change the trend. The green curve is a “bent” curve, the rate of cost increase is now lower. In the short-term, getting a discount helps more. In the long-term, changing the trend helps more.