Fresh off a week at the beach, the ugly reality hits me in the face: it’s an election year. It was nice to ignore the news while I chose between ceviche or grilled snapper and reading on the beach or boogie boarding. But now I’m back in the real world with my concerns about what happens after November 8, 2016.
There is no doubt that whatever the outcome, changing healthcare policy will be a high priority for anyone elected. Some want to do away with Obamacare completely, some want to refine it. But rather than listen to rhetoric about the good, the bad and the ugly of healthcare, we should understand the facts before we evaluate policy proposals. Below are just a few of those facts:
- We spend 17 to 18 percent of our GDP on healthcare in the U.S.
- About two-thirds of that is paid for by our taxes. That comes to about 11 percent of our GDP.
- Other developed countries spend about 10 to 12 percent of their GDP on healthcare.
- Over 10 percent of Americans remain uninsured.
What does this tell me? Our problem isn’t who pays for healthcare. Our taxes already fund as much of our healthcare as countries like the United Kingdom, France, Japan, and Sweden. These countries somehow manage to insure just about everyone.
We have a problem with how much we spend on healthcare. Some more facts, gathered by the Commonwealth Fund:
- The U.S. and New Zealand take about 50 percent more prescription drugs than other developed nations.
- The U.S. and New Zealand are the only developed nations that allow direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical marketing.
- Americans have the highest per capita use of MRIs, CT scans, and PET scans among comparable countries.
- The cost of surgery, imaging and pharmaceuticals is higher in the U.S. than in comparable countries.
- The U.S. has a shorter average life expectancy, higher infant mortality and far more chronic disease than comparable countries.
In short, we get charged more for a sub-standard product here in the good ol’ U.S.A.
We don’t need a penny more in resources spent on healthcare. Other countries demonstrate that we already spend enough to provide higher quality care to a larger percentage of our population.
We need candidates who understand this reality. And we need to know which candidates demonstrate an understanding of overdiagnosis and underscreening, inflated prices, and inefficient delivery and administration of health services. These are the areas that drive up our health costs. The same problems stand in the way of better health for us all.
More to the point, which of the candidates who demonstrate this understanding will work with their colleagues on the solutions? We simply cannot afford candidates who won’t.