Commentators on healthcare provision point to several factors that they say mean healthcare costs are inexorably rising. People living longer is the usual culprit, compounded by the fact that many of our ailments have become not life-threatening, meaning we may well stay alive long enough to need treating for more (and more chronic) diseases. One of the oft-used arguments is that modern technologies used for doing this are responsible for soaking up more and more money, and that’s no doubt true, but in an interesting piece by Serge Bernasconi, Chief Executive Officer MedTech Europe, EDMA & Eucomed, he suggests that new medical technologies, far from being a money pit, should be seen in a far broader sense. He point to their role in delivering socio-economic benefits as well as avoiding the disabling nature of many conditions. He cites hip prostheses as example of technologies that have had a huge socio-economic impact as well as the financial benefit of keeping people mobile and able to work rather than the economically burdensome alternative.
He boldy claims there to be no systematic link between innovation and expenditure in healthcare, which is no doubt true. But this avoids the inevitable fact that a new technology that makes more people treatable will cost more money. It’s a complicated old moral maze, predicated by the argument that society’s obligation is to keep people alive. It’s almost the opposite of the smoking argument. Smokers pay a tonne of tax and die younger. Medtech costs a lot and helps folk live longer. It’s all a question of how we as a society attach value to life-years, especially those during which the individual is paying tax.
It’s an interesting read, clearly defending the industry, for which the author is a leading representative. If you want more on the subject, consider the arguments being bandied around in the US regarding the value of medtech as both a contributor to society as well as a significant employer and exporter. All of this in the face of an increasing government tendency to see such a vibrant industry as another source of tax income.
Find the Bernasconi blog article here.