Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The blob that ate the economy

Well, actually there are two such blobs, one being of course the military-industrial complex, but now I'm going to talk about the health care-industrial complex.

We have become so accustomed to growth in spending on health care that when the increase is about what it was last year, we call that "stability." Strunk, Ginsberg and Cookson, writing in Health Affairs (link is on the side folks, and this one is free to non-subscribers) tell us that health care spending increased by 8.2% in 2004. This is, obviously, much faster than the overall growth in the economy, as it is nearly every year.

Of course that means that if we get insurance through employment, our share of the premium has gone up along with our co-pays. If we're taxpayers, we already know that Medicaid is straining our state budgets even as people are thrown off the rolls and their benefits are cut. If we aren't insured, uh oh.

But don't worry, in the future, at least we'll all have jobs. In 2047, just as we finally defeat the insurgents in Iraq, and private Social Security accounts have made all the old folks rich, President Jenna Bush will preside over an economy consisting entirely of health care. We'll all spend 100% of the time in hospitals, giving each other colonoscopies and PET scans, except for the people who spend 8 hours a day manufacturing pills and medical devices before they come home to their hospital beds for an IV, a quick psychotherapy session, and some arthroscopic surgery. Of course, the orderlies and housekeeping staff won't have health insurance, but if they pick up some multi-drug resistant staphylococcus, they can still go down to the Emergency Department and get themselves transferred to the nearest public hospital, in Tijuana.

Or maybe something else will happen.

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