Emergency! Healthcare costs are vastly underrated

Under current law, national health spending is projected to grow at an average rate of 5.5 percent per year for 2018-27 and to reach nearly $6.0 trillion by 2027. However, given the poor health of Americans, I believe this projected spending is unrealistic.

Let’s look at some startling facts about our healthcare:

-We spend about 17% of our GDP on healthcare, and this number indeed is headed to 20%; that amounts to more than $3 trillion per year.

Nearly 40% of Americans were considered obese in 2015 and 2016, significantly increasing between 2007 and 2008. The medical care costs for obesity in the United States are high. In 2008 dollars, these costs were estimated to be $147 billion. The annual nationwide productive prices of obesity obesity-related absenteeism range between $3.38 billion ($79 per obese individual) and $6.38 billion ($132 per obese individual.

-Cancers fueled by obesity are rising among young adults in the United States and appearing at increasingly younger ages, according to an analysis released Monday by the American Cancer Society.

-Risk factors that can potentially be changed cause 42 percent of all cancer cases and 45 percent of cancer-related deaths, according to a new study from the American Cancer Society (ACS).

“[T]hese findings underscore the vast potential for reducing cancer morbidity and mortality through the broad and equitable implementation of known preventive measures,” wrote the report’s authors, published in the ACS journal CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

-A 2016 study published in the Journal of the AMA found that only 2% of Americans met the ideal dietary guidelines adopted by the American Heart Association.

-In a 2015 survey, 28% of American adults stated that they did not participate in any of the 104 listed physical activities in the past year and were considered “totally sedentary.”

-On average, health insurers and employers spend $26 more on administration for every consumer with low healthcare system literacy. That translates to $4.8 billion annually in administrative costs across the United States. Compare this to the $1.4 billion each year in administrative costs for consumers with high healthcare system literacy

-Cigna found widespread loneliness, with nearly half of Americans reporting they feel alone. Loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

So what does all this mean? It means that while the house is burning down, we continue to talk about the cost of the hose to carry the water to put the fire out. Politicians are too damn afraid to say, “the reason our healthcare costs are rising is that we, Americans, aren’t doing enough to stay healthy.”

Even job-related stress can result in “accidents, absenteeism, employee turnover, diminished productivity, and direct medical, legal, and insurance costs,” costing the United States $300 billion annually.

We need the courage to stand up and say, “it’s us”! We need to test ways to get people exercising and eating the right foods. We need insurers and the AMA to acknowledge that things like obesity are a real national emergency. Until that happens, the projections for healthcare spending are a charade.