By Fareed Zakaria, CNN
New Jersey’s Camden Coalition of Healthcare Providers founder and family medicine practitioner, Jeffrey Brenner, used medical billing records to find that just 1% of patients accounted for 30% of health care costs in Camden. And that's not all he discovered in the city's three hospitals. He says: "We learned that someone went 113 times in one year. Someone went 324 times in five years. In similar workup in Trenton, they found someone who went 450 times in one year." These were people with complicated medical histories and chronic illnesses. One patient alone racked up $3.5 million in medical bills over a five year period. As Brenner says, :"They're the difficult patients to treat, and no one is being paid and incentivized to pay attention to them."
What's more, Camden's problem is America's problem. Just 5% of Americans accounted for half of our nation's health care costs in 2009. This is perhaps the crucial statistic to understand about America's health care problem.
So what should be done? I explore this in depth in Global Lessons: The GPS Road Map for Saving Health Care, which will debut on Sunday, March 18 at 8:00pm and 11:00pm ET & PT on CNN/U.S. it will air on CNN International on Saturday, March 24 at 9:00pm ET. My companion article for TIME will be in the edition that hits newsstands on Friday, March 17.