“Money doesn’t make you happy. I now have $50 million, but I was just as happy when I had $48 million.”
According to an article in Internal Medicine News by Mary Ellen Schneider, spending on health care in these United States is projected to reach 20% of the gross domestic product on the one hundredth anniversary of my father’s birth, 2017. Of course that projection is only an estimate made by CMS, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. That estimate is, of course, based upon a continued escalation of nearly 7% each year for the next nine years. In lay terms, that escalation would mean that the total dollars spent on health care would hit $4.3 trillion…Whatever a trillion is? I still can’t fathom a billion of anything.)
We all should realize by now that this spending in the public sector, Medicare and Medicaid, will increase due to the first wave of Baby Boomers entering the Medicare system in 2011. My 78 million peers, like the lemmings, are working their way toward the proverbial wall, and for those of you who will have to carry the load until we are wearing our wings, that is not a pretty financial picture.
The same economists from CMS are predicting a decrease in reimbursements to physicians over the next several years while Home Health will likely grow faster than most other sectors except perhaps prescription drugs.
What does it all mean? We are spending more on health care in the United States than any industrialized country in the world and, truthfully, our overall age of death is significantly surpassed by many of those “spending less” countries. How can that be? Well, for one thing, we have 47 million uninsured citizens in this country and no one really knows how many illegal aliens. Why so many uninsured? They don’t vote. The vast majority are young, single mothers with small children, and this does not take into consideration the illegal aliens who are also not insured.
Back to the answer. . . prenatal care is inadequate and infant mortality in the United States is still an embarrassment. A few of the countries that do better than us in the world in infant deaths per thousand are: Australia, Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden Switzerland and the United Kingdom. Hmmmmmm? Could it be because we spend 30% of our annual health care dollars on the last thirty days of life, and less than 4% of our monies on preventative and wellness care?
Of course, Hospice would be a tremendous help. We could reduce expenditures on end of life care, properly care for our babies with the excess funds, and ensure that our uninsured are properly covered as well, but what politician is willing to touch that electric third rail of the electorial subway tracks?
We could begin by putting in a network of sidewalks, bike trails, and walking trails. We could actually walk once in a while and treat our bodies like a true temple, not the “Temple of Doom.”
One of the least often heard issues revolving around these expenditures is the continuation of our archaic hospital system. It is based on the acute care model, and the vast majority of our diseases are chronic. We rush the victim to the hospital, patch them up, send them home and then rush them back again without any commitment to behavioral modification. I have seen individuals reverse their heart disease from diet, exercise, and stress management. Why can’t we embrace this concept, reward these activities, and change our society? The millions of bicycles in Europe are no accident.
So, as I’ve quoted in some other blogs, “Change or Die,” or just spend ourselves into oblivion as we attempt to prop up a system that should have gone out with the Industrial Revolution. Good luck kids, your ole man needs you to keep working to cover my health insurance.