Health-Care Costs Are A Civil Rights Issue

Matt Miller | The Washington Post | August 28, 2013

In 1963, when Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his “I Have A Dream” speech, America spent 5.5 percent of gross domestic product on health care . Today we spend 18 percent, while most other wealthy nations spend 10 to 12 percent through systems that deliver equal or better health outcomes. In a $16 trillion economy, our excess health-care spending — that is, money we devote to health care that plainly isn’t needed for quality care — thus comes to a staggering $1 trillion a year.

Call this a trillion-dollar “diversion” or “opportunity cost.” Call it a “rip-off.” Or even “theft.” Whatever the label, the point is the same: No leader commemorating the March on Washington and urging the nation to pursue our unfinished progressive agenda will draw a link between our out-of-control medical-industrial complex and the price of justice. They should.

In 1963, Dr. King said, “the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society.” Half a century later, if you want to know why too many Americans of every race and creed are still languishing, our outsized health-care costs, and the way they divert public and private resources from more urgent uses, are a big part of the explanation.