January 09, 2006

Health Care Spending Engulfing Economy

The government released fresh evidence today that health care costs are causing significant damage to the economy. According to the Washington Post,

Rising health care costs, already threatening many basic industries, now consume 16 percent of the nation's economic output—the highest proportion ever, the government said yesterday in its latest calculation…Even as health care costs continue to escalate, however, many Americans—especially minorities and the poor—still do not receive high-quality care, according to two other federal reports yesterday...

Political, medical and economic leaders and experts have long warned that health care cost trends will gradually overwhelm the economy, and many companies now complain that employee and retiree health costs are making them less competitive. Yesterday's report added new reasons to worry.

The article also contains this illuminating quotation:

"This is an alarming situation, but it's more like a creeping infection than a broken bone, and so people get used to it," said Edward Howard, executive vice president of the Alliance for Health Reform, a nonprofit education group chaired by Sens. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) and Bill Frist (R-Tenn.). "Frankly, I don't see major change until people who have some sort of organized political influence start hurting a little more."

There you have it; Congressional leaders are ignoring the 40% of the population that is uninsured because they don't have enough political clout.  That's not surprising, but it's surprising that this politician would admit it so frankly.  Will we really have to wait until the economy suffers badly enough to wake these guys up?

By Will Friedman in Health Care | Permalink  | 

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