Good Health, Bad Humor

Health care is an emotional subject for many Americans — and often one of extremes.

Quality of care and innovation are grounds for pride; distribution and cost, however, border on embarrassing.

Healthy Business - A CNBC Special Report
Healthy Business - A CNBC Special Report

The U.S. spends more on health care than any of its peers. Costs have been rising sharply and relentlessly for years, yet many feel they're getting less for their money.

In 2009, 17 percent of total US GDP went to health care. That will reach 19.6 percent by 2019, acoording to the Census Dept.

This year, the private sector will spend some $1.35 trilliion on health care; the government a little less.

Many, however, feel that they're getting less for their money. Managed care has alienated consumers and medical professionals alike, while drug makers and insurers deliver handsome profits. Employee contributons are rising, as are deductibles.

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The nation is aging and life expectancy rates continue to creep higher, making Medicare a treasured benefit, but increasingly we resent paying for it.

Reform efforts, including universal coverage, have been divisive and confusing, marked by ideological spin and statistical manipulation.

Yet, as we obssess about the system's structure and cost, we neglect our own health. Obesity and high blood pressure are more common, while exercise and diet are overlooked.

Our special report, "Healthy Business", looks at where money is spent and how profits are made.