I went to a medical conference on the weekend. It’s something I very rarely do.
Medical events tend to have people talking about things I either have no use for anymore, or that I disagree with. This one was more on the second category. But I still need to keep up my medical registration by attending some of these events.
Anyway one of the pieces that did catch my attention was repeated by two speakers.
They said that on current trends in my state, in 25 years the health budget will take up the ENTIRE government budget.
There will be money for health, but nothing else.
As one of them pointed out, this will of course make government much simpler because there will be only one portfolio to deal with… Health.
Who needs education, road, police, infrastructure etc anyway.
Then each of the speakers said we had to do something about this problem, and they had the solutions that would fix it.
That’s where they started to go into stuff I disagree with, so let me not go there.
Instead let’s examine their claim for Health expenses being so dramatically out of whack.
The assumptions are these:
Currently the economy of the state where I live is growing at 4%.
Fair enough. That’s a nice average rate for most Western economies.
However health expenditure is 30% of the government budget and it is growing faster, by 9-11%.
Not really very surprising, because of two big factors.
1. The population is getting older and more likely to get sick and use the health system, and
2. There are many more ways to spend more money, on new medications, fancier operations, and higher-tech equipment.
I also like to add in 3. That much of health is driven by private enterprise that has an interest in making us spend more money on their particular drugs, equipment, services etc. But “disease-mongering” and it’s ilk aren’t required for health demands to still grow rapidly.
The end result is that even assuming a steadily growing economy, we have a blow out in the money spent on health.
If you pull out a spreadsheet and plot the growth the dates are correct.
At 9% growth there is no money left over for anything except health by the year 2032.
At 11% growth, the year of catastrophe is 2026.
My kids will be barely out of school!
And remember, that’s the 100% point, and that’s just ridiculous.
The point where just 50% of all government money needs to be spent on health at 9-11% growth, is either 2018 or 2015 respectively.
This is nuts!
If you think that Western health-care systems are bad now, then you just wait. They have not even begun to show the cracks if these predictions have any basis at all in reality.
That’s the key question. What is the reality?
Will government health care systems collapse within just one generation?
Or is it this all just mathematics gone mad?
Are these theories and extrapolations just as vague and open to interpretation as the debate on world population, or the guessing game about when we will run out of oil we can dig out of the ground to run our economies, otherwise known as peak oil?
When is optimistically saying that we will work it out when we get there, equivalent to burying your head in the sand?
I didn’t have the numbers before, but personally, I think we are indeed in for a health care melt-down. Self help and self-reliance is more needed than ever.
But what’s your opinion?
-Dr Martin Russell