Thursday, 19 April 2012

Healthcare: the kids are as bad as oldies

I was intrigued by an article I read recently by Denis Piveteau, a member of the French equivalent of the Supreme Court (the Conseil d’Etat) and also chair of the Commission into the future of health insurance in France.

We all know that one of the great issues of our time is the ageing population and the impact it has on health services. We all know that because it keeps being said. In the same collection as Piveteau’s paper, David Oliver from the Department of Health in England pointed out that ‘people over 65 account for 60 per cent of admissions, 70 per cent of bed days, 80 per cent of emergency readmissions or deaths in hospital and nearly 90 per cent of ‘delayed transfers of care’.’

But Piveteau recommends that we distrust simplistic soundbites. It isn’t just the old who consume healthcare services. He tells us that in France, at least, ‘people aged over 75 represent about a fifth of the total expenditure on healthcare of the population, or roughly the same as is consumed by people under 30, and those who are over 85 represent about the same as those who are under 10. And yet no one would ever think of claiming that people under 30 or under 10 are responsible for the deficit in health insurance in France’.

Now it’s true that the proportion of the population under 30 or under 10 isn’t growing, while the proportion over 75 or 85 certainly is. The ageing population is going to be a much bigger factor in determining the future of healthcare over the next few years than the younger age groups.

Even so, it’s great to have a little context, a little perspective. Expenditure on the very old is certainly high, but so is expenditure on the very young. We don’t resent the latter; it might not be a bad thing to be more tolerant of the former.

And that is the balanced view on an impartial observer of the human scene. Who, you may be surprised to learn, will be 60 next birthday.

You think we're the problem? Take a look at the kids.
And we don't make as much noise.

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