The Great American Challenge: Rising Healthcare Costs
At the Health Reform Summit held in Washington this past Monday, Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke had a chance to make clear that one of the greatest economic challenges that the American people will have to face is their healthcare system. During the meeting, Bernanke said that "Per capita health care spending in the United States has increased at a faster rate than per capita income for a number of decades. Should that trend continue, as many economists predict it will, the share of income devoted to paying for health care will rise relentlessly." (NewsVoA.com, 6/17).
The problem has become more evident as the number of uninsured individuals has skyrocketed to 47 million with the underinsured not far behind them at 25 million. These individuals have cost the government over $35 billion per year. This figure is not expected to decrease either, leading to an expected increase in healthcare spending to over 22 percent of the gross domestic product by the year 2020. Keeping people healthy and improving their lives is becoming more costly each year. With the cost of health insurance, deductibles, and co-pays reaching new heights, these advancements in technology are not within the financial reach of everyone who needs them.
"To continue limiting the effects of rising medical costs on household budgets, the government may have to absorb an increasing proportion of the nation's total bill for health care, putting even greater pressure on government budgets than official projections suggest." Bernanke said (NewsVoA.com, 6/17). To provide a cushion and eventually prevent the costs from reaching those levels, Democrats are proposing a system of universal healthcare that will spread the costs associated with the plan throughout all those who take advantage of it.
While Bernanke may be making a point about the current state that the American healthcare system is in, he is well aware that there is not a quick fix or a simple solution to this problem. Bernanke stated that "Because our health care system is so complex, the challenges so diverse, and our knowledge so incomplete, we should not expect a single set of reforms to address all concerns. Rather, an eclectic approach will probably be needed" (NewsVoA.com, 6/17).