"It doesn't matter how much money you have, as long as you have your health," they say. That's why it makes sense that the richest country in the world spends the most on healthcare. According to an article in the journal Health Affairs, the good news is that U.S. healthcare spending growth slowed in 2005 to 6.9% annually. The bad news is that total spending reached $2 trillion per year, 16% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), almost $6,700 per person for each of the 300 million Americans.
Following the change in control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in the last election, analysts like Jill Gardiner writing in the New York Sun report renewed interest in national political circles for some kind of national health insurance. Citing recent initiatives from New York's Senator and likely Democratic presidential contender Hillary Clinton and incoming Governor Elliot Spitzer, Massachusetts' former governor and Republican presidential aspirant Mitt Romney, and California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gardiner notes that the latest policies bring business needs into the debate: companies' healthcare costs now amount to significant proportions of overhead.
A national plan like Canada's or England's won't do. Gardiner quotes Dr. David Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute who noted that coverage is more available than is regularly assumed. A third of the 46 million Americans who are uninsured are
already eligible for government-subsidized insurance but have not
signed up; another third earn $50,000 or more. "That seems to be a
crisis in signing your name to a piece of paper, rather than a crisis
in coverage," Gratzer grumped.
Healthcare spending is likely to become the big domestic policy topic of the 2008 presidential election campaigns. With any luck, we'll get some comprehensive discussion of the issues in the next 22 months.