MU professor discusses economics of health care

Thursday, September 24, 2009 | 7:31 p.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — An MU economics professor discussed the finances of health care legislation Wednesday, touching on high and rising health care expenditures and reasons why some people don’t buy health insurance.

Professor Jeff Milyo, speaking in Middlebush Hall at MU, said that even though we spend more than any other country on health care, life expectancy in the U.S. is not close to being the longest.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. will spend about $7,500 per capita on health in 2009. Health care spending as a share of gross domestic product is much higher in the U.S. than in the United Kingdom and Canada, Milyo said. But he added that the U.S. is not that far ahead of the pack.

“We may be at the top, but we’re not an outlier," he said. "Other countries are experiencing similar growth in health care expenditures.”

Milyo said private insurance is on the decline because of increasing premiums, more non-citizens in the U.S. and fewer people marrying and having children. He said that half of the uninsured population could afford insurance out of their disposable income but choose instead to spend it on education and housing.

Milyo believes that some claims made about health care have been false. The American Journal of Public Health said that 45,000 people die each year because they lack insurance. Milyo gave several reasons why those numbers are false. He believes that the treatment effect on health is much more modest.

“For people without insurance, it’s not a matter of life or death," Milyo said. "It’s a matter of pain and discomfort when you don’t have financial security."


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