Archive for the ‘Health care’ Category

The cost of health care and the built environment

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Health care expenditures now represents over 16% of the entire US economy.  Ever increasing health care costs are putting strains on all levels of government and now represent one of the largest expenditures of the federal government.  It should come as no surprise that the United States spends more money on health care than any other country.  Who else could afford to pay as much as we do? Putting aside the problem of what we get for this money, a real problem is that when governments spend these kinds of sums on health care, they have less money for everything else.  What will be the point of a hospital if the roads to it are impassible because of decayed infrastructure?

A couple of years ago, some of the medical students at Boston University formed a group called the Ad hoc Committee to Defend Health Care.  Its goal was to lobby the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to increase its subsidies to Boston City Hospital, the largest provider of free care to the poor in the state.  BCH should be proud of this and it is important that they continue to in this role.  A poster for the rally is proudly framed in the student lounge adjacent to where I teach my built environment course.

But what the students, as well as other advocates for increased government money for health care never say is what items should not be funded in order to increase our health care funding.  Just as many of those on the right say we should cut taxes without ever clearly stating what government functions we should give up, these activists (on the left) keep pushing for more money without regard to the consequences for everything else.  My concern is with infrastructure, mass transit, renovation of inner cities, etc.  But when the government is spending this much money on health care, everything else is going to suffer.

Of course I want the poor to have access to health care and I want public hospitals to be able to fulfill their mission.  But the poor also need food subsidies, parks, transit, libraries, education, and if we don’t figure out a way to control health care costs, there won’t be any money left for any of these vital services.