Health Care Spending Expected To Affect U.S. Economy
Some economists believe health care will become an increasingly significant economic force in the next several years as a growing percentage of the gross domestic product is spent on medical services and procedures, the New York Times reports. Health spending in the U.S. accounts for 16% of GDP, and that percentage is expected to increase as the population ages and more expensive medications and procedures are developed, the Times reports.
According to Robert Fogel, a Nobel laureate at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, health care expenditures will account for about 25% of the GDP by 2030, making health care "the driving force in the economy." U.S. residents can afford to spend more on health care because other expenses are lower than in the past, he said.
Fogel added, "At the end of the 19th century, food, clothing and shelter accounted for 80% of the family budget. Today it's about a third."
David Cutler, an economist at Harvard University, said "typical" 45-year-old U.S. residents today "will spend $30,000 more over their lifetime caring for cardiovascular disease than they would have spent in 1950. And they will live maybe three more years because of it." Cutler added, "Yes, it costs a lot, but we're rich enough where the alternative use of the money isn't valuable."
Victor Fuchs, an economist at Stanford University, said spending money on health care is different than purchasing consumer products because "most of it involves transfers from the young to the old." Fuchs added, "Down the road, most medical care will be for people over age 65, and most of the payments will be from taxes on younger people."
In addition, the consideration should be whether more spending is brining about improvements in health care.
Robert Hall -- a Stanford University economist, who with Charles Jones of the University of California-Berkeley recently wrote a paper in the Quarterly Journal of Economics on health spending -- said, "We all know that especially in Medicare, where more and more of the spending is going to occur, there isn't anybody who has responsibility for making sure the money gets spent well. Some huge improvements will have to be made as the consequences of that waste get greater."
Hall added, "Does [health spending] make sense in terms of how we value different things? What do people think a life is worth? And what do you get?" (Kolata, New York Times, 8/22).