Health care spending is very popular, not just that we spend a lot, but as a topic of debate. Wow! The recent flurry of posts Aaron and I have published on health spending in and since the 1980s have inspired numerous e-mails and comments. People really want to understand and debate this stuff.
Unfortunately, bottom line, nobody has a fully convincing answer to why health spending in the U.S. took off around 1980, relative to other OECD nations. It’s not enough to say it was outpatient care (if it was) or that it’s the prices (if it is). Even if people accept that–and not all do–it begs further questions. Why? Why? Why?
I regret that Paul Starr published his book The Social Transformation of American Medicine in 1982. An update seems warranted. He couldn’t address what was beginning to happen in the 1980s but does a superb job in all years prior.
That’s all I have to say on this issue, pending more analysis or reading (send suggestions!). In the meantime, if you haven’t been reading the comments to posts, take a look. The ones to this post are particularly interesting. (You can subscribe to all comments here.)