Health Care Spending: A trillion here, a trillion there…

Posted by RXH in Recommended Reading/Listening on May 04, 2011 with 0 Comments

Former Congressman Everett Dirksen has been attributed as saying, “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.“ It’s uncertain whether he ever made that statement. But, if he was in Congress today, Mr. Dirksen would know that when Congress talks about “real” money it is now denominated in trillions.

A friend recently brought to my attention a report published by the Kaiser Family Foundation. Here is how the foundation describes itself:

“A leader in health policy and communications, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a non-profit, private operating foundation focusing on the major health care issues facing the U.S., as well as the U.S. role in global health policy.  Unlike grant-making foundations, Kaiser develops and runs its own research and communications programs, sometimes in partnership with other non-profit research organizations or major media companies.

“We serve as a non-partisan source of facts, information, and analysis for policymakers, the media, the health care community, and the public. Our product is information, always provided free of charge from the most sophisticated policy research, to basic facts and numbers, to information young people can use to improve their health or elderly people can use to understand their Medicare benefits.”

The April 2011 report, “Health Care Spending in the United States and Selected OECD Countries,” gives some enlightening charts and data comparing health care expenses in the United States versus other developed countries. There is a lot of great information in the report that will explain why our health care costs are so relatively high. There is too much information to relate in a blog. However, there are two charts I would like to share, one from the report and a second of my own making.

The following chart shows, as of 2008, per capita health care expenses for most of the major developed countries.


It seems ridiculous that our spending is so much higher than all of the other countries, especially when studies have shown that this extra spending has not translated into better care or a significantly higher life expectancy.

The second chart shows how much money the United States could save each year by bringing our per capita spending down to the average for the other countries or just down to the second highest (Norway).

Doesn’t it seem reasonable that we could find ways to bring down our per capita spending more in line with the rest of the developed countries? Doing so would have a dramatic impact on our federal budget deficit.



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