The timing of the “end of COVID” will be a determining factor in the strength of the recovery. In the UK, the OECD country whose vaccine rollout is so far the most advanced, the Prime Minister’s roadmap expresses the hope that if all goes to plan, June will see a “return to normal.” For reasons on which we expand in our recent book, COVID-19: The Great Reset, the idea of a return to a pre-COVID “normal” is a fallacy. The post-COVID era will inevitably differ in many significant ways—whether travel, work, the role of tech, or consumer habits: Nothing will be the same. The “normal” to which the British PM refers is defined in terms of normal access to restaurants, museums, theatres, concerts, sports and other events. That this normal access then equates to normal levels of activity is not a given.
All over the world, the pandemic has temporarily sidelined the debate over healthcare costs, but it’s going to reignite soon with critical implications in terms of the role that wellness habits may play in reducing them and the way in which our social contracts need to be redefined.
In many countries, health costs are simply out of kilter with the “returns” they are supposed to yield. The US epitomizes this situation. In 2019, it spent $3.6 trillion on healthcare (about $11,000 per person), an amount considerably higher than in any other developed economy for an outcome considered sub-par (“on average”) that leaves almost 30 million Americans uninsured. Why US healthcare spending is so high in per capita terms is directly correlated to the underlying cost of healthcare procedures that keep going up and constitute the largest spending item.
The result: Year after year, healthcare absorbs more of employers’ costs and families’ income while also costing the federal budget and states’ budgets more. The situation may sound extreme in the US, but the increase in health costs is a global problem that can only be addressed sustainably by doing the maximum to ensure that people don’t fall ill in the first place.
The bottom line: Countries must reconsider the way they do welfare and healthcare, and wellness must be at the core of this reconsideration.