For years, business “leaders” would wring their hands at the growth of health care spending. “It’s not productive” they would say. “It’s a drain on the economy.” Or, some economists are now suggesting, maybe healthcare could be the driver of the economy. Is that so bad? Is spending money on healthcare, versus money on an SUV, a bad decision?
An article in the New York Times last week referenced a series in the Annals of Internal Medicine last year. That series was capped by an editorial written by Victor Fuchs, the Stanford economist and autor of the book, “Who Shall Live?” To say that the reasons for the high cost of healthcare in the US is complex is an understatement. The Fuchs editorial provides some perspectives and important nuances about costs. He asks,
Much is often made about the fact that the United States spends over 15% of the gross domestic product
on health care while other high-income countries spend only 8% to 10%. But every country spends 100% of
its gross domestic product on something; if other countries spend less on health care, they must spend more on cars or clothes or other goods and services. Is that bad for them and good for the United States? Not necessarily. It all depends on the value obtained by the spending. The main reason we should care about high health expenditures is because extra spending in the United States may not provide as much value in improved health or other sources of patient satisfaction as if those funds were used for education, housing, scientific research, environmental protection, or other private or public consumption and investment.
Interesting reading and well worthwhile as we all struggle to find a level between cost and value for the hard work and money spent.