Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Health Care 2017: One Dollar Out of Every Five

Twenty cents out of every dollar. One dollar out of every five. Twenty dollars out of every hundred. No matter which way you view it, health costs will almost double by the year 2017. (See the Health Affairs Report.) While impressively large, those figures assume even more magnitude when you realize that they represent a rise to 20% of our nation's gross domestic product.

Aliza Marcus at Bloomberg reports that the increase in spending on health care will be primarily fueled by an aging population -- primarily Baby Boomers -- as they seek treatment and care for chronic ailments such as diabetes and high blood pressure. When you combine this with the projected increases in pharmaceuticals and medical technology it paints a fairly grim financial portrait.

As the baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, begin turning 65 and qualify for Medicare coverage, the program's share of the national health bill will rise to 21 percent in 2017, or $884 billion, from 19 percent in 2006, according to the study.
The Washington Post reports the forecast of total health care spending to be $4.3 trillion by 2017, almost double the amount spent in 2007. They also note that while overall spending will increase, the amount spent on private health care will actually shrink while public spending accelerates.

The Wall Street Journal's Health Blog points out some of the efforts being made to slow Medicare spending on Capitol Hill. According to their health care blogger, Jacob Goldstein, the Democrats have tabled the idea of reducing payments made to privately operated Medicare plans, which have a higher out of pocket cost for the federal government than traditional ones.

Kevin Freking of the Associated Press takes a look on the other side of the aisle where President Bush proposes slowing the cost of Medicare by freezing reimbursement rates for the next three years to health care providers such as hospitals, home health centers, and nursing homes. In addition, Bush proposes requiring wealthier Medicare beneficiaries to pay higher premiums on prescription medications.

All in all, it looks like the rate of health care spending will continue to outstrip growth in the gross domestic product. It is hardly surprising that this is recognized as a crisis by most experts and, increasingly, by the public at large.

SOURCE: "Health Spending Projections Through 2017: The Baby-Boom Generation Is Coming To Medicare" 02/26/08
SOURCE: "Health Costs Will Rise to 20% of Economy by 2017, U.S. Says " 02/26/08
SOURCE: "WASHINGTON IN BRIEF: Big Jump Forecast In Health Spending" 02/26/08
SOURCE: "Feds’ Health Spending to Double in a Decade" 02/26/08
SOURCE: "Spending on Health to Rise Dramatically" 02/26/08
photo courtesy of tracy_olson, used under this Creative Commons license

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