If you’ve spent any time on the Internet you’ve probably seen this video, “Wealth Inequality in America.” The gap between the rich and the poor has never been bigger, and it is hard not to be shocked at how wide that gap has become.
But no one seems concerned about “Health Inequality in America.”
The United States annually spends $3 trillion on healthcare, and half of that amount is consumed by less than five percent. Furthermore some 75 percent of our healthcare dollars go to people with chronic conditions.
Where is the outrage?
Many of those expensive conditions that drain our limited healthcare resources were not innocent children with cancer, victims of terrible accidents, or individuals with hereditary birth defects. Instead they were self-inflicted and preventable, caused by smoking, alcohol and drug abuse, sedentary lifestyles, and poor diet choices.
It’s easy, apparently, to get angry about how 5 percent of the population owns more than 50 percent of the total wealth in this country; but no one is shocked that five percent of the population receives 50 percent of the healthcare, most of which is paid by the rest, in the form of taxes, higher insurance premiums, or substandard healthcare.
If Americans took more responsibility for eliminating threats to their health we could cut healthcare expenditures in this country as much as 25 percent by some estimates. That theoretical $750 billion could benefit those who were not ill by lifestyle choices, but by poverty or bad luck. It could help middle class families whose finances are ripped apart by catastrophic illness. That three-quarters of a trillion dollars could be used to transform healthcare providers into wellness centers that not only treat diseases but promote healthy lifestyles.
We need a healthcare system that rewards healthy behavior in place of the one we have today that transfers the cost of those who engage in unhealthy behavior among the rest.