Medicare, repeated deficits year after year, endorsed the idea that health is primarily a cost. Politicians and the media regularly deplore the excessive nature of the medical expenditure and economists themselves deploy treasures of energy to assess the financial loss to the project in time, to vary the technical progress and innovation. But health is not a cost.
In a recent study, written with Peter Howitt (Brown University), we have demonstrated empirically that a high level of life expectancy generates additional GDP per capita. From a global sample of countries for the period 1960-2000, we provided evidence that translates into a 10-year extended life expectancy point of additional growth. Investing in health thus increases the potential for growth in the long term of a country.
Is it surprising that health is a factor of economic growth After all, health is not simply another form of "human capital" An individual health is more productive, because less often absent, more dynamic and more concentrated on his work, and with better cognitive abilities. In addition, an individual who plans to live longer will be more incentives to invest in education and learning of new technologies, because this investment will be amortized over a greater time horizon. Finally, if he plans to live longer, this individual will increase its savings to ensure a comfortable retirement, this additional savings in turn fuelling investment and growth at the national level.
Beyond this result on a sample world countries, our study twisted looking old prejudice, namely that the improvement of health would be the prerogative of the few emerging countries and relates more directly our country, where life expectancy is already high. Our empirical analysis demonstrates, on the contrary, that the positive impact of health on economic development and growth is observed also in the countries of the OECD. Is it simply because of the lengthening of life or, rather, because that improved levels of health increases productivity and the inventiveness of the people active
Our analysis suggests that as the first factor plays an important role in the case of the least developed countries, as it is the second factor which tends to dominate in the case of developed countries. Indeed, the earnings of growth due to the lengthening of life in developed countries has already been widely made over the past five decades. So the France experienced an increase in life expectancy at birth close to nine years between 1960 and 2000, of which 55 was acquired after 65 years (in other words, the life expectancy at age 65 has increased by about five years during the same period). It is so unlikely in 2009 of the additional gains in life expectancy at the age most advanced have also impact on the growth in less developed countries, since they concern that marginally forces productive in the country. But, moreover, can legitimately think that any prolongation of life has a positive impact on the application (including the pharmaceutical produits), which in turn can help to stimulate research in this area.
In fact, our study shows that the gains in life expectancy during the first part of the life, approximately 0 to 40 years, explain to them only the positive link between life expectancy and productivity growth in the developed countries. This result suggests in turn that the effect of health on growth is largely the impact on cognitive of the active population and productive capacity. Note that life expectancy is just one measure of the level of performance of a health care system. For example, reduce the processing time of cerebral embolism does not only life expectancy, but especially the capacity motor and cognitive of the individuals concerned, and therefore their ability to generate growth.
Demonstrate the importance of health to economic growth is to totally change the terms of the debate on the reform of the health care system. In particular, he will now think twice before proceeding with cuts in spending health or undifferentiated increases in hospital packages, because these cuts are likely to weaken the General State of health of our country, therefore its potential for growth. This observation applies in particular to the directors of ARS (regional health agencies) that the new law provides for "managers" rather than doctors.
Improve the health of the French population and, in particular, that of younger generations, not only contributes to increasing the productivity of individuals in activity, but can also increase the rate of participation of the population in the labour market. In addition, this allows to achieve a decrease in total health spending in the long term, as the prevention and early intervention are that individuals remain healthy longer.
The approach we propose implies it further deficits in the long term The answer is no: any additional growth allows to improve our fiscal position in the long term. In addition, our approach goes hand in hand with a policy of extending the statutory hours of work. Cannot increase the legal age of retirement without adopting a policy of health for seniors to work long. Conversely, the lengthening of the duration of the work to collect the fruits of the growth generated by the improvement of the health care system.
A health policy bold, which is a vision of long term and which is centred on young people and the population active, is a rational response to the problems posed by the aging. It's finally to invent a new model of society, that of aging healthy, one capable of responding to the challenges of demographic and economic future.