Health Spending 'Not Sustainable'
While sweeping reform may not come soon, experts contacted by WebMD agreed that the nation's broken health care system must be addressed and that this must happen sooner rather than later.
The statistics bear this out:
- 45 million Americans have no health insurance.
- 25 million more have health plans but are considered underinsured because their policies offer only minimal coverage, according to the Commonwealth Fund.
- 42% of U.S. adults under age 65 are uninsured or underinsured, up from 33% in 2003.
Total spending on health care represented around 16% of the gross domestic product in 2007, and the Congressional Budget Office says spending will rise to a quarter of gross domestic product by 2025.
"We are not going to reduce health care spending," says former Congressional Budget Office Director Alice Rivlin, PhD, who is now a scholar with the Brookings Institution. "The best we can do is reduce the rate of health care spending growth. That should be the No. 1 priority of any health care reform."
If jobs are the next thing to go in the current economic crisis, as many economists are predicting, the number of Americans without health insurance will quickly increase beyond projections.
"Something has to happen over the next few years, because the cost of doing nothing is too great," Rivlin says.
Davis echoes the thought. "We can't afford to stay on the path we are on with regard to total health spending," she says. "Employers can't afford it, the government can't afford it, and individuals can't afford it. It is just not sustainable."