What if our national credit rating was tied to our health?

Folks, as part of nextHealth’s broader mission, we research some aspects of the Wall Street world — and in the process, we come up with some offbeat ideas. See what you think of this one.

Recently, when poring through items in the financial press, I ran across a discussion of whether the United States’ credit rating would suffer in the wake of the recent market failure. (The answer seems to be “Almost, kinda sorta totally unlikely.” )

Whether the idea of the U.S. losing its gold-plated credit rating is realistic or not, I can’t say.  Not only am I not an economist, I’m not even a garden-variety financial know-it-all.  But the discussion of national credit measures — such as debt, growth in the GDP and employment levels –did get me thinking about how a nation’s productivity and creditworthiness should be determined. 

And then it occurred to me. What if our credit was tied to some sort of national health score? 

After all, while it’s not clear which measures predict where the economy will go, it’s fairly clear which measures to use if we want to get predict where population health is headed. And healthier populations are obviously more productive, resilient and adaptable than sicker ones. (By the way, I’m well aware that the federal government, as well as state agencies, already do a lot of this kind of measuring — but I’d argue that most officials aren’t smart enough take their work seriously.)

Of course, health leaders and politicians argue as to which specific measures are most important, but it wouldn’t be too hard to pick a few baseline measures (such as, say, incidence of obesity, vaccination rates and number of primary care providers per 1,000 residents ) and run them.  Perhaps we’d do that once a quarter.

Then, if I were Standard & Poor’s, I’d begin factoring those scores in when I assigned a rating to U.S. financial obligations, such as outstanding bonds.  Ultimately, I’d probably end up demanding similar data from other nations, too. After all, those guys aren’t worth much if the comparisons they make aren’t reasonably consistent.

Of course, officials and planners are already focused on making communities healthier. But if our country’s financial security depended on people staying or getting well — and officials got big money and praise for upping health indexes — state and local governments might be more focused on health results.  And the notion that health is patriotic could reach people where appeals to consider their own wellbeing might not, sad to say.

So, what do you think?  Crazy idea?

About the author

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger

Anne Zieger is a healthcare journalist who has written about the industry for 30 years. Her work has appeared in all of the leading healthcare industry publications, and she's served as editor in chief of several healthcare B2B sites.