24 February 2009

Health Wonk News of the Day

This is a fun time to be a health policy nerd.   (This is an especially fun time to be a progressive health policy nerd.)   There's just so much going on, and much of it is good.   Things which caught my attention today:

Ezra Klein reports that Obama's speech tonight will include a proposal for a universal health care plan.   This is significant in that it is a shift from candidate Obama's mandate-free plan, or at least signals that he is willing to follow Congress' lead in developing a universal health insurance program.

The Wonk Room reports that polls indicate that Americans strongly support health reform as a top domestic priority; 72% favor a program that would increase the involvement of the federal government to provide heath insurance to more Americans; and 66% agree that it is the "responsibility of the government" to "make sure" that all Americans have health care.

In more ominous news, Obama has insisted that entitlement reform is inextricable from health care reform, and a HHS study out today shows that health care continues to grow as a share of GDP (exacerbated by the contraction in GDP) from 16.6% to 17.6%, with costs rising to $8,000 per person, and the ranks of the uninsured swelling to 48 million.   The rise in costs will result in the Medicare Hospital trust fund running out of cash as soon as 2016, earlier than previously anticipated.   Ezra reminds us, however, that this is not a "medicare" problem, but a problem of the overall excess growth in health care spending from all sources:
longtermspendinghc.jpgThe CBO notes that over the past 30 years the cost of heath care has increased about 2% more than the increase in income, each and every year.  The compounding effect of this excess growth has led to the tripling of the fraction of GDP dedicated to health care from 5% to the current 17+%.

So, if Obama and the congress are intent on tackling the cost of health care in tandem with the expansion of health insurance to all Americans, they have their work cut out for them, don't they?


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