Health Care Innovation Can Give the Economy a Big Boost

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Nov. 15 2013 11:57 AM

Less Death, More Money

Health care innovation can give the economy a big boost.

Senior citizen counting money.
Researchers from the University of Chicago say that potential gains from future innovations in health care are extremely large.

Photo by Marcin Moryc/Hemera/Thinkstock

For all the recent talk of the too-high costs of medical care, the truth is that health innovation can be a boon to an economy—as long as it’s done in a thoughtful way.

At a recent Future Tense event in Washington, D.C., on how longer lives would change America, Kevin Murphy and Robert Topel of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business discussed their research into aging and the economy, including their 2005 paper “The Value of Health and Longevity,” which finds, “The potential gains from future innovations in health care are also extremely large. Even a modest 1 percent reduction in cancer mortality would be worth nearly $500 billion.”

In video interviews, the pair discussed some of their work with Slate. Below, they lay out their findings:

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But there is another side: They also told us about how the “dependency ratio”—which occurs when a population ages, leaving too few workers supporting too many people dependent on government safety nets—can have disastrous effects:

Also in Future Tense’s special series on longevity:
Make Your Dollars Last: How you—and the economy—can prepare for a long life that’s financially healthy.” A video interview with Lisa Mensah of the Aspen Institute.
Why Is Everyone So Negative About Living to 120? Science fiction about longevity tends toward the dystopian.” A video interview with Sonia Arrison.
How to Make Social Security Last: If we’re going to live longer, we’ll need it more than ever,” by Matthew Yglesias.
The Jetson Fallacy: Much longer lifespans could explode the nuclear family,” by Liza Mundy.
In Sickness and in Health: Marriage may extend your life, but it also contributes to obesity,” by Brian Palmer.
Why No One Actually Wants to Live Forever: It would be really, really dull,” by Gemma Malley.
Talking ’Bout My Generation: The Real Walking Dead: The problem with longevity? Old people,” by Brad Allenby.
Can Older Women ‘Have It All,’ Too? How longer lives will affect sexism,” by Amanda Hess.
Childhood’s End? What living longer might mean for kids and teens,” by Katy Waldman.

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