The Great Annual Economic Stimulus Package

2009-02-10 | |
Last updated: 2009-02-10

The recent news of delays in Obama’s health care overhaul plan should come as no surprise given the current state of the economy and the complexities of even understanding how to successfully change such a massive system. While some see the withdrawal of Tom Daschle from health secretary nomination as a big blow to achieving such an overhaul, the reality is that even with a highly competent leader in place, the task will be an incredibly difficult one.

Countries like Canada which have an often internationally-praised national health care program have struggled for years to streamline their own system to reduce costs and improve efficiency. This has thus far been an unsuccessful effort in Canada even without the added complexities of the health business interests that have their own agendas. Add to this the differences introduced by different statutes in each State and any such overhaul is likely to take a long while and a lot of effort.

With the US spending 17% of its gross domestic product (GDP) on health care in 2008 as compared to around 10% in countries like France, Canada and Germany according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), working toward any comparable efficiencies should be a concerted effort. The problem is that when the country itself is hemorrhaging, becoming efficient at spending health care dollars will become a secondary priority.

The lack of focus toward obtaining health care efficiency is very unfortunate for the country as it ultimately costs the citizens both in terms of real tax dollars and in terms of world competitiveness. If the percentage of GDP used toward health care in the US were reduced to the approximate 10% of other countries, the resulting 1 trillion dollar savings would be like getting more than the current economic stimulus package each and every year!

Keeping this in mind, the whole process might be helped if individual states started to look at aligning their own statutes with other states. Were some of these differences eliminated, a national program might have more chance of success. With such high stakes and so much to gain, the health care system really needs that added focus.

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