I did this a year ago — at a very small healthcare event. I interrupted the presenter who was clearly annoyed. I did apologize afterward — and I’ve learned to stage the timing better — but there are times when accuracy is critically important — especially in healthcare.
I was correcting a single number — but it’s a big/important one — NHE (National Healthcare Expenditure).
NHE is a really big number. This year (2015) it will be about $3.2 trillion. Rough math says that equals about $10,000 per capita — each year — that the U.S. (in aggregate) spends on healthcare. It about 18% of our GDP.
But here’s the thing. The number is reported or referenced only sporadically in the media. That has created a false sense of comfort with a number that quickly becomes stale. In the case of last year’s presenter, it was $2.8 trillion.
Last year, NHE eclipsed $3 trillion so it was a milestone year — and why I felt it was really important to correct the speaker at the time.
But there’s another element at work here that we lose sight of so easily and quickly — time. Many of us are so busy analyzing, studying and reporting on healthcare that we lose sight of the passage of time and that’s why I correct people who quote NHE with a dated number.
Time is an important element for all of health and healthcare and we must not lose sight of it. Next year NHE will be $3.4 trillion and NHE will likely be $3.6 trillion in 2017. Time is not helping our collective efforts to reign in healthcare spending — and we need to recognize and acknowledge that. Healthcare spending correlates (often directly) to who can afford healthcare — and who get’s it. Time needs to be a part of the whole debate because cost is a huge component of everyone’s health and healthcare
Here’s the chart — reflecting the escalating costs of our NHE with Obamacare — and without. Granted these are “forecasts,” but they have a rich history of accuracy because it’s a very formal, highly regimented annual accounting process that’s been done for decades.
I’ve created an easy to see/use graph, but the underlying accounting/spreadsheet is available through CMS online here.
At the time I interrupted the speaker, I had no idea I was pulling a Susannah Fox. Now I know — and consider it a privilege to be in such good company!