The health-care industry is the largest employer in the U.S. It produces almost 17 percent of the nation’s gross domestic product. Yet the bill treats health care the way European governments do: as a cost problem instead of a growth industry. Imagine limiting growth and innovation in the electronics or auto industry during this downturn. This stimulus is dangerous to your health and the economy [Betsy McCaughey, "Ruin Your Health with the Obama Stimulus Plan," Bloomberg.com, 2009.02.09].
Sure, technically, the 17% more that I will spend on health insurance this year could represent a boost to the GDP. I could also boost the economy by swerving my bike in front of a semi and incurring a couple hundred thousand dollars in medical expenses. But when health care is a "growth industry" (I'm still laughing), it too often plays a zero-sum game: the check I write for my jacked-up premium will be balanced by less spending on local goods and services. The boost my bike accident could provide to the local hospital will be balanced by my loss of productivity (not to mention flat-out medical bankruptcy).
McCaughey misses the point: making medicine more efficient and controlling costs will produce a health dividend: more people able to afford health care, more businesses able to spend less on health coverage and more on hiring and capital investments, and—oh yeah!—more people protected from medical errors and thus kept alive to contribute to the economy (not to mention the general happiness of their families and friends).
McCaughey thinks sloppy paperwork and more sickness are good for the economy. Let's hope the conference committee on the stimulus package thinks otherwise.