Friday, October 11, 2013

Ecomonies and Pharmacoepidemiology: today's link.

Beat the Press points out just how much health care costs are driving the United States fiscal situation:
But suppose we humor our friends at the Post. If our per person costs were the same as Canada's, or 53.1 percent of U.S. costs ($4,521.6/$8507.6) , then we would be looking at primary budget surpluses of more 2.0 percent of GDP over the next decade. These rise to more 3 percent of GDP in the 2040s and would eventually exceed 4 percent of GDP ($640 billion a year in today's economy).

If our per person health care costs were the same as in the U.K. then we would be spending just 40.0 percent as much on health care ($3,405.5/$8507.6). In this case our primary budget surplus would be over 3 percent of GDP for the next 15 years, rising to over 4 percent of GDP in the 2040s and eventually exceeding 6 percent of GDP by the end of the forecast period ($960 billion in today's economy).
I think that this rather dramatically illustrates that there are a lot of ways to meet the challenges of the long term budget deficit.  It's not that we can become Canada or the UK tomorrow, but that this difference in costs (with the attendant lack of access) is not ideal.  If we do decide that it is worth it to put this focus on medical costs then it makes sense to realize that taxes are needed.  In isolation, most taxes hurt somebody.  In isolation, most government programs benefit somebody.  The trick is to find a way to balance these two elements.

It is very much like pharmacoepidemiology.  Our focus on the adverse effects of medication use can often blind us to the real benefits of appropriately prescribed and used medications.  But balancing the two pieces is not at all trivial, so it can be too easy to just weigh one side of the equation. 

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