The Price Tag of Sick Kids

As the population gets sicker, including our kids, the laundry list of chronic conditions grows – diabetes, asthma, allergies and ADHD. On top of that, the cost of health care continues to climb.

Since 2001, the health premiums for a family of four have doubled; health premiums are expected to surge another 6 percent in 2009; and spending on health care has been growing faster than the economy. Among developed countries, the US faces the biggest burden with an estimated cost equivalent of 1.2 percent of GDP in 2007. That means that out of all of the developed countries in the world, we spend the most on health care.

So how much is that exactly? Well, our GDP measures the total market value of all goods and services produced within our country and is estimated to be somewhere around $14 trillion dollars. So if you calculate just one percent of that, you end up with about $140 billion dollars (can’t you hear Dr. Evil saying that?!). That’s how much we spend on health care.

$140 billion dollars. Can you even get your head around how much money that is? Let’s get a feel for how much ONE billion is…

If you were to count one billion seconds (not 140 billion, but just one billion), it would take you 31.7 years of continuous counting. To get to two billion, would take 63.4 years, to get to three billion…well, you probably wouldn’t live that long. So you wouldn’t stand a chance of counting up to 140 billion. And that’s how much we spend on health care costs here in the US.

Which means we have less money to spend on things like groceries, new shoes or gymnastic practices. Not only is lost productivity on health care costs exacting a heavy burden, but according to the Congressional Budget Office, Americans are faced with increasingly difficult choices between health care and other priorities. So we also have less money for new cars, new houses or paying off the debt we’ve got on both! A perfect example of how calamitous this has become comes from the New York Times who recently stated that “Starbucks pays more for health care than it does for coffee”!

As these health care costs continue to spiral out of control, they are creating a burden not only on households across the country, but also on our health care system, our corporations and our economy. Not to mention on our personal pocketbooks!

Published on: November 27, 2008
About the Author
Photo of Robyn O'Brien

As the founder of AllergyKids, Robyn has appeared on Good Morning America, CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and CNN highlighting the role that chemicals in our food supply are having on our health. Robyn is the author of The Unhealthy Truth: How Our Food Is Making Us Sick and What We Can Do About it (Random House, May 2009).

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