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Answer to Question #49615 in Economics of Enterprise for Obinna

Question #49615
As people live longer, does that mean that they are healthier and thus spend less on medical care, or more disabled and spend more?
Expert's answer
The health of the population is also viewed as a measure of the overall effectiveness of the healthcare system. The extent to which the population lives longer healthier lives signals an effective system.
- While life expectancy is one measure, HHS uses a composite health measure that estimates not only the average length of life, but also, the part of life expectancy that is expected to be “in good or better health, as well as free of activity limitations." Between 1997 and 2010, the number of expected high quality life years increased from 61.1 to 63.2 years for newborns.
- The underutilization of preventative measures, rates of preventable illness and prevalence of chronic disease suggest that the US healthcare system does not sufficiently promote wellness. Over the past decade rates of teen pregnancy and low birth rates have come down significantly, but not disappeared. Rates of obesity, heart disease (high blood pressure, controlled high cholesterol), and diabetes are areas of major concern. While chronic disease and multiple co-morbidities became increasingly common among a population of elderly Americans who were living longer, the public health system has also found itself fending off a rise of chronically ill younger generation. According to the US Surgeon General “The prevalence of obesity in the U.S. more than doubled (from 15% to 34%) among adults and more than tripled (from 5% to 17%) among children and adolescents from 1980 to 2008.”
- A concern for the health system is that the health gains do not accrue equally to the entire population. In the United States, disparities in health care and health outcomes are widespread. Minorities are more likely to suffer from serious illnesses (e.g., diabetes, heart disease and colon cancer) and less likely to have access to quality health care, including preventative services. Efforts are underway to close the gap and to provide a more equitable system of care.
So, we can see, that as people live longer, that doesn't mean that they are healthier and thus spend less on medical care, but as the medical care level improved significantly, people can live more, but spend more for treatment and may not be healthier.

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