The Dangers of Soaring Health Care Spending

A few months ago, I quoted estimates that projected domestic health care costs will double by the end of the decade to $3 billion. Seems those projections are accurate, if not a little less, than the even scarier numbers included in a report released yesterday by Medicare.

The average price tag for health care per person in America -- $6,423 -- will rise to slightly to more than $11,000 by 2014. (Those numbers aren't adjusted for inflation either!) Total health care costs could likely rise to $3.6 billion by then, accounting for almost a fifth of our domestic economy. Even though health insurance premiums will experience slow growth in the years to come, annual increases will still surpass the rise of disposable incomes, meaning more people may be uninsured.

Another effect on our government's fiscal budget down the line: Medicare and Medicaid will be left paying a larger percentage of this nation's health bills, from some 45 percent in 2003 to nearly half by 2014.

Cold, hard numbers like these describe, better than I can, the current health care crisis we're facing. Besides, what do we get for the most expensive health care in the world? The absolute best system in the entire world for treating acute, surgical emergencies. Beyond that, however, the system is an unmitigated failure at treating chronic illness.

As a nation, we're not achieving the high levels of health that we could be. More and more people don't have the energy they need to get through the day, while millions of others are suffering from painful, crippling diseases because they have overlooked or ignored basic health principles. Many of these choices were made out of ignorance, which is why I'm so dedicated to my vision to make a dent in this mess and change the focus of health care to one that emphasizes treating conditions often built over a lifetime rather than quick-fix "cures."

USA Today February 24, 2005

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