Our crony-capitalist driven health care system is devouring the American economy, and the data which proves that baleful trend could not be more dispositive. In 1960, national health expenditures amounted to $150 per capita and hardly 5% of GDP. By the year 2000, these figures had grown to $5,000 per capita and 13.8% of GDP. Today health care devours nearly $9,000 per capita and more than 18% of GDP.
Needless to say, America did not turn into a giant sick bay during the last 55 years. Instead, the health care delivery system was virtually stripped of any semblance of market prices, consumer choice and economic discipline and efficiency. As a practical matter, out-of-pocket payments for health care – unlike almost all other consumption goods – -virtually disappeared from the system.
As a consequence, health care has been essentially transformed into a free good at the point of use. In turn, this has spawned massive over-utilization, gross inefficiency and economic rent extraction by the cartels which dominate the system – – hospital chains, insurance companies, HMOs, Big Pharma, medical equipment and prosthetic vendors, etc.
The chart below explains how this breakdown happened. In a word, the massive expansion of government financed health care after 1965 in the form of Medicaid, Medicare and related programs induced a huge expansion of price-insensitive demand that drove medical prices skyward. In response, both government recipients and employer plan beneficiaries demanded to be shielded from rampant medical cost inflation via more comprehensive coverages and a relentless reduction of out-of-pocket costs for deductibles and co-pays at the point of service.
This post was published at David Stockmans Contra Corner on September 10, 2014.