The global economic downturn has done what government policymakers, bosses and employers, the collective health care complex, and the consumer brain could not accomplish.
FINALLY! Health care spending has fallen. Money spent on health care in the U.S.—including payments made for doctors, drugs, insurance policies, and hospitals—rose in the first half of 2010 by just 2.7%, the slowest rate of increase since the government began tracking such data in the late 1950s, per USA Today. When the figures are adjusted for inflation, per-person spending actually dropped by 0.2%. And what, at long last, caused the runaway train that is health care spending to hit the brakes? Was it health care reform, or new efficiency measures from doctors and hospitals, or health insurers scaling back on greed? Not a chance. It was the recession that did it:
The drop was not predicted in government forecasts and appears to be the result of a bad economy and high unemployment, health care experts say.
“It’s the recession effect,” says Karen Davenport, health policy director at the liberal Center for American Progress. People who’ve lost insurance, and even some with coverage, appear to be cutting back on medical spending, she says.
What’s especially surprising about these numbers is that we know health insurance premiums have risen substantially during this same time frame. So the decrease in spending has to mainly be the result of people not seeking medical care as much as they used to—which has the obvious potential for disaster.
FINALLY! Consumers have wised up and stopped buying crap. There’s an argument to be made that not only are consumers smarter and more well-informed today, but that the “New Normal” of careful, prudent spending represents a genuine, permanent shift in behavior. Or so indicates the data collected by the organizers of National Coupon Month, who rounded up stats like:
51% of consumers indicate they will consider each purchase more carefully over the next five years.
97% of consumers want to know the cost of the item before buying.
What I want to know is what the other 3% are thinking (and also: where their money comes from).
FINALLY! Gen Y has realized the importance of an actual work ethic. In light of huge layoffs and mass job uncertainty, the coddled millennials have become aware that success—and having a job period, for that matter—is not something you’re entitled to, but something that requires discipline, hard work, and even (occasionally) doing stuff the boss tells you to do. As the LA Times reports:
Stunned by a barrage of pink slips instead of promotions, Generation Y — people ages 18 to 30 — has swallowed a piece of humble pie. Those who still have jobs are adopting new workplace attitudes and making themselves more valuable.
In many cases over the past couple of years, members of Gen Y were junior-level employees at companies and the first to be let go during waves of layoffs:
In June — the latest figures available for making this comparison — the unemployment rate was 9.5% for the nation overall. For Gen Y it was 15.3%. Because of these stark numbers, many younger workers realize that they can’t make demands for raises, promotions, time off, training and the hottest technologies during a recession.
And FINALLY, let’s hope this ongoing period of low employment, lean workforces, and general uneasiness in the job market not only makes employees appreciate their salaries—but makes employers appreciate the value of good workers.