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What Is The US Health Spending Problem

Author: David M. Cutler
$15.00

Is increased spending on medical care harmful to the US economy? The overall share of the gross domestic product spent on medical care is not a problem, provided that the services bought are worth more than their cost. However, high and rising costs expose two often-overlooked problems. First, spending is too high because many dollars are wasted. Estimates suggest that unnecessary medical spending costs the typical American family thousands of dollars each year. Second, high medical costs combined with stagnant incomes for a large share of the population and the inability of governments at all levels to raise tax dollars leads to increased health and economic disparities: fewer people covered by private insurance, the rationing of care in public health programs, and the lack of funds for other social programs. These distribution issues, coupled with the large waste, imply that efforts to address medical spending need to be among our highest priorities.

Is increased spending on medical care harmful to the US economy? The overall share of the gross domestic product spent on medical care is not a problem, provided that the services bought are worth more than their cost. However, high and rising costs expose two often-overlooked problems. First, spending is too high because many dollars are wasted. Estimates suggest that unnecessary medical spending costs the typical American family thousands of dollars each year. Second, high medical costs combined with stagnant incomes for a large share of the population and the inability of governments at all levels to raise tax dollars leads to increased health and economic disparities: fewer people covered by private insurance, the rationing of care in public health programs, and the lack of funds for other social programs. These distribution issues, coupled with the large waste, imply that efforts to address medical spending need to be among our highest priorities.

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