Spending or Investing? — The Silver Book & Innovation

With the presidential election looming and the state of our economy in question, it’s not surprising that health care spending continues to be a hot topic.

In January, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services released its annual estimate of our nation’s health spending in 2006. CMS reported that health care spending growth in the U.S. accelerated only slightly in 2006—increasing 6.7% compared to 6.5% in 2005.

While the 2006 growth rate appears to be good news, things weren’t so sunny at the January 31st Senate Budget Committee Hearing on health care spending. Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Director Orszag highlighted data from their November 2007 report—The Long-Term Outlook for Health Care Spending, to support his testimony that “no other single factor will exert as much influence over the federal government’s long-term fiscal balance as the future growth rate of costs in the health care sector.” CBO’s cost projections show a dismal outlook—with health care costs quickly overwhelming our economy.

There have been many heated arguments as to the cause of increased health spending—chronic disease prevalence, waste, fraud, and changing demographics—to name a few. Whatever the cause, there’s no denying that the Silver Tsunami of baby boomers with chronic diseases is sure to place a tremendous strain on our already fragile health care system. The Alliance’s The Silver Book—Chronic Disease and Medical Innovation in an Aging Nation makes a strong case for medical innovation as a key piece of the solution to skyrocketing health care costs. For instance, according to Dr. David Cutler of Harvard, current health technologies return, on average, approximately $4 in approximate life value for every medical dollar spent.

The Silver Book is an almanac of sorts and provides 1,000s of facts and statistics on the burden of chronic disease, the growing senior population, and the value of medical innovation. While many argue that we should be cutting back on medical technology because it’s driving spending, I see it as a crucial investment—offering potential dividends of longer, healthier lives. Check out www.silverbook.org to find more on the value of medical innovation.