The Link Between Healthcare and Education

Would you donate to the Broken Healthcare Action Fund to if it meant better and safer U.S. schools?

For many months, I’ve been writing to you about skyrocketing healthcare costs, disparate prices for haves and have nots, the corruption that pushes prices ever higher, and the staggering amounts of money used to persuade politicians to maintain the unfair and wasteful status quo as it relates to discriminatory pricing policies. We are fighting for a “proof of concept” Colorado ballot initiative which would require full healthcare price transparency to reduce healthcare prices and increase healthcare quality.

While most of us agree that change is necessary, recruiting both donations and volunteers has, at times, been slow as healthcare reform is just one of a number of critical, hot-button issues competing for attention and resources. But what if we look at what transforming our healthcare system would mean for some of those other issues occupying our hearts and minds? There is a very simple, but important, connection between fixing the broken healthcare system and fixing many of the other pressing problems facing our nation. Fixing most problems will cost money. Fixing the U.S. healthcare system can provide those critical funds.

Let’s look at education quality and school safety.

All across the country, teachers have been protesting low pay and poor benefits. As we head toward the November elections, politicians are staking out their positions as saviors of teachers with promises of better pay. And, of course, the mounting death tolls related to school shootings mean almost every state legislature is looking at costly school safety bills (in addition to controversial gun control measures). But while talk is cheap, good education in a safe environment costs money. So how do we pay for it?

The answer is right in front of us.

Annual healthcare spending in the United States has topped $3.5 trillion, or 18% of GDP. Of that, we waste between $1 and $1.5 trillion every year. More than one-third. Wherever the actual number lies, it is easy to understand what that kind of money would mean to students and teachers in this country.

The entire K-12 public education budget in the United States is less than $1 trillion. That’s right—we WASTE more money in our healthcare system than we spend, in total, on primary and secondary education. This may be why teacher protests in Colorado are among the best places to collect signatures for our healthcare ballot initiative. In addition to sub-standard salaries, teachers are experiencing what many government workers at the state and municipal level are experiencing—skyrocketing healthcare costs and declining benefits on sub-par salaries. It’s an ugly picture.

At the end of the day, though, it’s not about the teachers. It’s about the kids. And as healthcare consumes an ever-larger share of tax dollars and personal incomes, we’re wasting money that could otherwise be spent on education and school safety measures. The money we waste in healthcare is rotting our country from the inside out—forcing legislators to make choices they don’t need to make.

Unfortunately, those best in a position to do something about it are not feeling the pain on a day-to-day basis and are not helping to promote big picture solutions.

This is America’s biggest problem today—there is not enough empathy among the affluent to drive real change.

Reforming our healthcare system, starting with serious price transparency that drives competition and forces prices down and quality up, can provide the funds to significantly improve the quality and safety of primary and secondary schools. We could pay teachers better and improve our public schools. We could fund vouchers for private schools at the same time. We waste enough money in healthcare to improve the safety and quality of our nation’s schools and tackle some other underfunded systems while we’re at it.

The bottom line is that we’ve been talking a lot about how healthcare price transparency reform will reduce healthcare prices and increase quality. But maybe instead of trying to compete with other major issues for the hearts and minds of the American public, it’s time to start talking about how one single effort—reducing healthcare prices—can change lives in so many other critical ways. Shedding a bright light on healthcare pricing abuse, creating real competition that drives prices down, and providing a single set of prices for all patients not only reduces the great health divide in this country, but will also reduce the great wealth divide in so many other areas. Isn’t that worth a real investment?

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