Personally, I don’t place much importance on the Gregorian calendar, but its twelve months give us a reliable timeframe to evaluate change. Over the past two and a half weeks you’ve no doubt seen your fair share of lists, the best and worst of 2013, humorous and serious, ranging from the top ten twerking moments to the top ten policy failures. In addition to the outpouring of Buzzfeed articles, the numbers have come in on the US economy and for liberals there’s a lot to be happy about, especially when it comes to healthcare. Despite claims from the naysayers on the right who try painting the Affordable Care Act as an anti-American piece of legislation that erodes our foundational beliefs, it’s already started to benefit our country and the proof is in the numbers.
The amount of our nation’s GDP dedicated to healthcare expenditures fell from 17.3 to 17.2 percent. That’s the third year in a row that healthcare spending as a portion of the GDP has either remained the same or declined. This drop is especially impressive considering that overall GDP grew by 4.6 percent. Some may question whether or not this is a good thing. Doesn’t a drop in healthcare expenditures indicate a suffering system? Not at all! The drop indicates that healthcare costs are being kept down, and that the unprecedented rise in the cost of healthcare is finally slowing down.
Other nations mastered their own healthcare costs years ago. In fact, Germany started moving towards universal coverage in 1883 under Otto von Bismark’s leadership. Germany’s proactive efforts paid off; in recent years, they have spent a mere 11.6 percent of their GDP on healthcare costs, and the World Health Organization ranked them thirteen slots above the United States in their 2000 analysis of 191 healthcare systems from around the world.
Who did the World Health Organization rank first? France. Of course it really had to be the French. We’ve spent too much time mocking their military history, and not enough time revising our outdated healthcare system. Like Germany, France spends approximately 11.6 percent of their GDP on healthcare. Although we’ve all heard the rumors that America has better healthcare than almost any other country, statistics regarding infant mortality rate and life expectancy tell a different story. As a nation, we are certainly failing with regard to the infant mortality rate; where France had 3.6 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, the United States had 6.9. The French also have longer life expectancy than Americans! Essentially, we’ve been spending more and getting less than almost any other industrialized nation.
This is why I’m so ecstatic about the recent data suggesting our rising healthcare costs are finally slowing. It’s the first indicator of a more cost-efficient, comprehensive, and modern healthcare system. When you hear Rush Limbaugh proclaim that Obamacare is only concerned with “expanding the government,” you can rest assured that he’s wrong, as usual. In reality, it is improving the cost and quality of healthcare for millions of Americans. The Affordable Care Act is approaching its fourth birthday, and already been proving its efficacy.