According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the US in 2019- before the COVID-19 pandemic- spent $11,582 per person on healthcare, which represents 17.7% of our GDP. For perspective, no other high income nation spends more than 10% of their GDP on healthcare. And according to projections from the same source, in 2028 we’re expected to increase our spending to 19.7% of our GDP.
However, this exorbitant spending isn’t translating to better health outcomes. We have among the lowest of life expectancies among high income countries, and this number is falling. Other measures like infant mortality rates confirm that we see worse health outcomes on average than these same high income nations.
ISSUES WE FACE
10.9% of Americans are uninsured: Due to the high costs of going to see doctors and specialists, these residents generally don’t have access to preventative care. This not only hurts their health, but means that they are more likely to experience medical emergencies, resulting in emergency room visits which are extremely costly, often causing extreme medical debt and bankruptcy. And under our current system, those who are unemployed are in the worst positions for receiving affordable care. Individuals with insurance are also affected because when the uninsured are unable to pay the exorbitant emergency costs, the government mostly pays through taxpayer dollars.
1 in 4 Americans Struggle Affording their Prescription Drugs: The prices of life-saving prescription drugs are rising more than 3 times the rate of inflation. This is a medical crisis, hurting the health of our residents and increasing the financial burden and stress placed upon middle and lower class families. Meanwhile Congresswoman Eshoo is fighting to protect drug companies, harming Americans and worsening the crisis.
Misaligned Incentives: Our current system rewards the overuse of medical procedures. The fee-for-service payment structure that is most common today reimburses doctors for every individual service they provide, regardless of whether it helps the patient. We need to shift this system towards one that incentivizes quality, integrated, and cost-effective care, so doctors, nurses, and specialists are rewarded for working together to save money and improve patient outcomes, not for ordering unnecessary services.
Concentrated Markets: Right now, both the provider and insurance markets are concentrated, meaning these groups aren’t competing to lower costs and improve quality and convenience. To harness the benefits of competition, we need to encourage new insurers and providers to enter the market, and improve price and quality transparency to allow individuals to choose the best option for them.
Lack of Access: With Medicare and Medicaid reimbursing providers worse than private insurance, patients on those programs may not have access to all the services that those on private insurance do. This reimbursement system also hurts hospitals in rural and lower income communities, who are struggling to stay in business because a large portion of their patients are members of these government programs. We need to improve the system so providers treating our underserved populations are not at a financial disadvantage.