The Many Crises of Health Care

Barack Obama’s administration spent much of 2009 preoccupied domestically with the political fight to extend health insurance to the millions of Americans who have none. Every other developed country provides universal health insurance, but the US debate highlights an issue that will worry almost all of them in 2010 and beyond: the struggle to control health-care costs.

PRINCETON – President Barack Obama’s administration spent much of 2009 preoccupied domestically with the political fight over extending health insurance to the tens of millions of Americans who have none. People living in other industrialized countries find this difficult to understand. They have a right to health care, and even conservative governments do not attempt to take that right away.

The difficulties that some Americans have with health-care reform tell us more about American hostility to government than it does about health care in general. But the debate in the United States highlights an underlying issue that will worry almost every developed country in 2010 and beyond: the struggle to control health-care costs.

Health care now accounts for about one dollar in every six of all US spending – private as well as public – and is on track to double by 2035. That is a greater share than in anywhere else in the world, but rising health-care costs are also a problem in countries that spend far less.

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