The latest data on economic growth shows the American economy spent the last quarter growing at a rate equal to 2.5 percent a year. That’s neither recession-level bad nor full employment recovery-level good, but it’s worth diving into the numbers to see exactly what’s driving this slow expansion.
A significant part of the growth came from personal spending on health care as insurance premiums continue to rise, meaning a lot of that growth wasn’t very productive. That health care costs are rising—and rising faster than most other expenses—is a problem that businesses and policymakers have struggled with for years: It’s the major cause of federal budget deficits and the reason behind the health care law passed in 2010.
While the effects of the Affordable Care Act on private health care costs remain to be seen—many of its provisions will not go into affect for another two years—health care economists like Harvard’s David Cutler say it draws on nearly every idea that exists to lower costs. But Cutler adds that while we wait for pilot programs to succeed and scale or fail, more changes to the system—including a public insurance option and further incentives for health providers to reform delivery—should be on the table.
While policymakers in Washington and state capitals wait on politics and legal challenges to the 2010 law, consumers can take action themselves to lower costs. Innovative health care companies are coming up with new ways to make cost savings easier to find. Simplee, a company that creates products to make it easier for consumers to track their health spending, made this infographic for GOOD to demonstrate how rising costs in this sector affect us all.