LIFE Magazine August 1980 – Healthcare Costs Were 9% of GDP and Rising

Yesterday, I shared some old auto industry images and clips from the August 1980 LIFE magazine. More striking to me was an ad from Aetna health insurance, pictured below, the full ad and then some detailed clips below (click any for larger view):

Surprise, surprise, in 1980, people thought healthcare costs were too high. The ad expresses shock that the U.S. was spending 9% of GDP on healthcare and we need to find ways to reduce that. Well, here we are in 2009 and healthcare is 15.2% of our GDP. Ah, so past solutions didn't work… or did we save “Trillions” because we'd be at 18% of GDP without the previous fixes? Ah, things like that can never be proven…


So healthcare costs had doubled in five years, and radical changes were proposed (sound familiar?).

This last part sounds familiar — coordinating care, preventing duplication… all sounds fine in theory, I suppose. Can anyone shed some history on the HSAs and why they worked or didn't work?

This last clip talks about over-investment in equipment and facilities… idle and open beds isn't really the problem today, is it?

I'm certainly not the expert on big-picture issues like this… but sharing the old clips to hopefully get some input from those who know more about the history and issues on this level.

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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.



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