Sunday, August 16, 2009

We need to spend more on health care

An interesting editorial in the Wall Street Journal argues that we should be spending more money on health care. Health care currently makes up 17% of the GDP in this country. And what's wrong with that? Nobody argues that manufacturing, with 20% of GDP, is bad for us. In fact we want more manufacturing. When the housing bubble was inflating, nobody complained that construction jobs was consuming too much of the economy and needed to be refrained (though in retrospect it probably should have been). Imagine if information technology spending was growing as fast as health care spending; everybody would be singing the praises of the technology revolution advancing our nation into the 21st century.

Other countries want the medical products that are manufactured here, from pharmaceuticals to MRI's to artificial joints. Is it such a bad thing to invest 17% of GDP in such a robust industry? Why are we propping up the old fading industrial segments, with bailouts to the car companies and their suppliers, while trying to tear down the most innovative companies in the U.S., the drug companies, the biotechnology companies, the medical equipment companies?

The money spent for health care is not wasted money. That's like arguing that money spent on food is wasted. Health care is commonly referred to as a universal right, like having adequate food, clothing, and shelter. The government spends enormous amounts of money on food stamps and housing subsidies to make sure everybody has some sort of food and shelter. We don't mind spending more on those yet spending more for medicine is wrong. And there seems to be a common misconception that health care employees make less than manufacturing employees. I see all around me nurses, administrators, PA's, techs, etc. that make very good incomes. In fact many drive better cars and go on nicer and more frequent vacations than me. I bet there are just as many or more employees in health care who have nice incomes and benefits as there are in manufacturing. Why does the press keep denigrating the addition of employees in health care as if they are worthless jobs? That somehow they don't measure up to the romanticized benefits of manufacturing jobs?

So maybe the medical field just needs better PR. We need to get people over the perception that spending money on their own well being is money down the drain. It is money that will increase their longevity, make them healthier of mind and body, and expand one of the few world class industries still in the U.S.

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