A few weeks before the election, I came across a 12-minute talk from 2013 by Dr. Timothy Ihrig. The topic was about palliative care, entitled “What We Can Do to Die Well?”. The topic was intriguing, but what really caught my attention were some of his statistics. According to Dr. Ihrig, the sickest 15% of our population, mostly those who die within a year, consume healthcare services representing 15% of our GDP. That’s nearly .3 trillion annually! At that rate, Dr. Ihrig suggests, this category of patients will represent 60% of GDP in only 20 years.
Now I don’t know how valid Dr. Ihrig’s statistics are. Believe me, I went looking. But after several hours of wading through articles, journals and blogs, I came away completely unsure as to how much palliative care represented a “cure” for rising healthcare costs. But that wasn’t the primary theme of his talk anyway.
What I was able to confirm from several trusted sources was that although we spend more than any of the top 50 countries in the world with organized healthcare systems, we rank 37th when it comes to quality and value. Clearly, more has not translated to better.
Whatever changes result from Obamacare or its “replacements”, it seems to me there is no question that how we finance healthcare will have a seismic impact on more than just healthcare. It goes to the very essence of a democracy based on capitalism and a free market economy.
In the coming weeks, I intend to probe both macro and micro aspects of healthcare financing. Because I am a problem solver at heart, I also intend to propose some solutions. Some you may find controversial. I hope you will also find some of them thought provoking or even compelling. But most of all, I hope to make this site a safe forum for ideas and discussion on a topic of national importance, because I believe that this is not only a challenge to patients, providers, and the healthcare industry overall, but ultimately also a challenge to our very way of life.
And I believe it is a challenge we can overcome.