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7 ‘tension points’ contributing to health care inequality

If the “amazing advances” made in health care over the past 70 years are to provide better health to the global population instead of just to the 1 percent, a few things must change. According to a new report from global management consulting firm A.T. Kearney, there are seven “tension points” that must be dealt with to ensure that everyone, not just those with the money to do so, reap the rewards of these advancements.

The report, “Health@250,” takes a look at the possible outcomes for U.S. health as far into the future as the year 2026, when the U.S. hits its 250th anniversary. During the past 70 years, it points out, such progress as the increase in average global life expectancy at birth from 48 years to 72 have indicated that as advances continue, a “dazzling future” could await—but for whom? The global population, or only those who have the means to pay for it?

The report’s purpose, the authors say, is “to illuminate the remarkable possibilities, highlight potential risks, and inspire leaders to take the actions necessary today to ensure the brightest future for America and the world.” For that to happen there needs to be a concerted effort to change the status quo—since, according to the authors, “The health of the United States, both as a society and as an economy, is at a crucial inflection point.”

An aging population with its attendant chronic, age-related diseases, the opioid crisis and the ballooning cost of health care, coupled with the toll of that cost on health and the increasing income stratification in the country all threaten the ability of the country—and the world—to go into the future with a thriving population and a thriving economy.

The report looks at a range of possible outcomes presented by these “tension points”—both positive and negative—and what their effects might be on the health of the country. Among those outcomes are ways in which the full potential of technological innovation can be harnessed to boost patient access, improve treatment and decrease costs; the consequences of low economic performance, combined with dysfunctional government that could stifle innovation, restrict access and cause prices to skyrocket; and the potential for health-conscious millennials to change the health care landscape.

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