When it comes to health care, the whole world is going broke at a slower rate. One of the biggest pieces of health care news in the U.S. lately is the “health care slowdown”: As we reported earlier today, spending is still going up overall, but at a slower rate. Many are puzzled about why this is happening, but a new piece at the Upshot points out that the “slower rate” is global (h/t Tyler Cowen). Data from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development suggests that every first world country has seen a slowdown since 2000. But why? Again, no definite explanation is available, but the Upshot tentatively suggests that one global shift could be important:
The synchronized slowdown offers reasons to be skeptical about neat explanations for the trends in any one country, be it local changes in medical practices or Obamacare’s various attempts to slow cost growth. […]
The world’s health-care systems are also converging in important ways. New drugs and medical advances, which were once adopted locally and spread more slowly, are now experiencing international launches. Medical technology companies are increasingly global, and seeing regulatory approval in many markets at once. Strategies that can reduce the need for expensive hospital stays, such as performing surgeries in outpatient clinics, are expanding around the world.
As the article points out, the global scope of the slowdown puts a dent in the theory dear to many left-leaning health care wonks that Obamacare is primarily responsible for the slowdown. But it also points to exactly the kind of factors we think will be key to the long-term sustainability of the U.S. health care system. We need new, better, and more decentralized ways of delivering care to patients, as well as more efficient medical technology. Creating space for those developments is the single most important policy aim we can pursue.