Why the US still needs to cut health spending
The US health care system still has not recovered from the economic downturn that began in 2008.
The number of Americans dying prematurely from complications from chronic illnesses like COVID-19, or of cancer has increased by more than 3 million since 2010, and the death toll from other causes has increased as well, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The health care needs of the American people are not being met,” says Dr. Michael J. Osterholm, president and CEO of the National Center for Health Statistics, the nation’s largest medical research organization.
“While the health care costs of the US have declined, the burden on the American taxpayer is growing.”
The U.S. has a $16 trillion budget deficit, and more than half of it is from Medicare and Medicaid, which together account for nearly a third of the total U.K. budget.
While Americans are still being laid off, the recession has caused many to look elsewhere for help.
The country’s public hospitals are now operating at full capacity, and private hospital providers are struggling to stay afloat.
In the past few months, the U.N. has issued a report that found the number of patients admitted to emergency rooms nationwide has increased at least 100 percent since 2009, and that many hospitals in states such as Florida and Alabama are seeing an influx of patients.
Dr. Andrew Kolodny, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, says that in the past, there have been a lot of bad news.
“It was always good news when you saw a big spike, but you would be surprised at how much worse it can get if you didn’t have the health insurance,” he says.
“If you don’t have insurance, it can be very hard to pay for things that are really important.”
The National Health and Medical Research Council in London, which has done the most extensive research on the impact of the financial crisis, says the financial meltdown has made the healthcare system less safe.
“We are witnessing a significant rise in the number and severity of coronavirus-related deaths in the U, and a dramatic increase in the cost of care for these patients,” the council said in a report released last month.
“With the economic and political crisis now in full swing, it is imperative that policymakers and patients are prepared for the worst.”
The CDC, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons and the American Medical Association have all issued statements expressing their support for keeping the healthcare costs down.
In a letter to Congress, the AMA called for $4.8 trillion in additional funding to address the rising costs of healthcare and to provide the tools necessary to combat COVID in the long term.
“In the meantime, we urge the federal government to act quickly to enact the necessary changes to the U-verse health insurance market, including requiring the sale of an equivalent amount of health insurance to all individuals, and ensuring that a fair and efficient market for health insurance is established for all Americans,” the AMA wrote.
But the AMA and the others have also warned that the financial system is not as stable as it should be.
“There is a lot that needs to be done in the health sector,” says Osterheim.
“You have to look at the health systems across the world, and there are still many problems with how healthcare is delivered.”
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