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September 15, 2009

Do we spend too much on health care?

As a country, we spend 17 percent of our total income - or $2.4 trillion - on health care annually. Some say this is just too much. Should we make it a goal to reduce our health care bill?

Dr. Mike Walden, North Carolina Cooperative Extension economist in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at N.C. State University, responds:

"Well, that, of course, is the attitude of many, and certainly those positions are very strong and very arguable. Let me sort of play devil's advocate here and take the opposite idea, that maybe we're not spending too much. First of all, let's recognize that that spending is income to a lot of people. In fact, the health care industry in our nation supports 14 million jobs. Secondly, it also makes sense that a rich country like ours - where basically we have our basic needs of food, clothing and shelter satisfied - as people move up the income ladder, they're going to be more focused on their own health and be willing to spend more on health care with a higher standard of living. And then thirdly, some people, indeed, are predicting that that 17 percent will go, maybe, to 30 percent. And they're saying, gee, this is not sustainable. Well, it could be sustainable if our economic pie grows large enough that we can still spend more on other things and support a higher percentage on health care. So there are two sides to this argument, and hopefully both of these sides will be taken into account as we look at reforming our health care system."

Posted by Dave at September 15, 2009 08:00 AM