What We're Spending Now
The US Department of Health and Human Services' Center for Disease Control, using data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development , notes spending on health goods and services plus health-care infrastructure as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product as follows:
- United States - 15.3%
- Switzerland - 11.3%
- France - 11%
- Germany - 10.6%
- Belgium - 10.3%
- Portugal - 10.2%
- Austria - 10.1%
- Canada - 10%
- Netherlands & Denmark - 9.5%
- Sweden - 9.2%
US health care costs have more than tripled in inflation-adjusted terms over the last 20 years to their current level of 15.3%.
What We'll Be Spending If We Do Nothing
Further, if current policies remain unchanged, that percentage will increase to 25% of GDP in 2025, and 49% in 2082.
Long Live the Rich, and the Poor Die Young
Yet, according to the NY Times, government research shows “large and growing” differences between the lifespan of Americans, based on their wealth. Admitting researchers in disagreement for reasons for this growing disparity, they do agree that a part of the explanation lies in whether an individual has health insurance.
Expand Access and Curb Costs - One Out of Two
The Administration 's main objectives stated earlier this year were:
- Expand access to health insurance, and
- Curb runaway costs for the economy has a whole.
Current House legislation being considered, however, "significantly expands the federal responsibility for health-care costs," says Douglas Elmendorf, director of the Congressional Budget Office. The Senate Finance Committe has not yet released their verion of the bill. As both versions of health care legislation advance, expanding coverage has been embraced while few compromises have been made with pharmaceutical companies where savings were to have been made.
Allegations that the CBO has not "credited" such proposals as "preventative care measures" have been asserted. Those assertions are correct. It is apparent that preventative care will result in lower long term health costs. It is inappropriate, however, to assign a dollar amount to that cost savings, as that amount would be impossible to quantify.
One more quantifiable compromise would be to reduce the federal tax subsidy that encourages employers to offer large health-insurance policies, but that proposal has been opposed by labor unions (that have these tax-advantaged plans).
Where We Are Now
Current legislation has not yet achieved the goal of cutting costs in a way that will prevent unsustainable increases in health spending. Special interests on one side - particularly labor unions - are at odds with
- AMA (that wants increases in Medicare payments to doctors)
- Insurance companies (that want to prevent a government-run competitor in the marketplace)
Whatever your opinion, it is time to contact your Congressional representatives. Achieving both access and cost containment is critically important in solving this problem. The link below is provided for your convenience in doing so.