Since I last published a blog post dedicated entirely to the above graph a couple of years ago, very little has changed. In fact, I’m sure the divergence of the curves has only grown bigger, as more and more administrators are added to the ranks of health care.
Quite often in life, the answers to some of the biggest questions we have, are staring us right in the face and incredibly simple. Health care can never be fixed unless we radically simplify everything and strip away the unnecessary complexities in our fragmented system. The divergence of the above lines, however, actually represents so much more than just an obnoxious visual. It actually symbolizes what happens when any organization, system, or even country, becomes top-heavy and loses sight of what is happening at the front lines. And in the end, it eventually collapses under its own weight.
When this happens in America, we cannot predict, but consider this: The amount we spend on health care would be the 4th largest economy in the world if it stood alone (at $3.5 trillion, only China and Japan have a higher total GDP). With an aging population, increasing chronic comorbidities, and expensive new treatments, if costs are not reigned in, health care expenditure could account for a third of the entire GDP in about 25 years. A figure that will quite simply destroy the American economy.
It would be one thing if all the administration and bureaucracy was actually resulting in an improved and more efficient health care system. But look around you folks. Acute physician shortages now plague every state. Millions of people find it impossible to find a primary care doctor. Certain specialties are now booking out appointments months in advance. ERs and hospitals are overflowing. And in the end, patients are still facing soaring out of pocket expenses.
The last 20 years have witnessed the consolidation and corporatization of the entire U.S. health care system. Sold initially as a way to reign in costs, I am yet to see any evidence that it’s done anything other than dramatically increase costs (please feel free to forward me any financial analysis if I’m wrong). And why should that be a surprise to anyone?
I’ll leave you to stare once again at the above graph for a minute or two, and take in a comment that a distinguished physician colleague of mine recently made: “It’s like the physicians have been given weed killer and the administrators have been given Miracle-Gro.”
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