Friday, March 11, 2011

Reducing Health Care Cost

Paul Krugman certainly has a point in his column today with regard to the manner in which deficits matter, but in his typical fashion he chooses to cite the points which reinforce his argument, and simply ignores those which tend to weaken it.

For instance he says that because the interest rate “is very low by historical standards” there is no rush to quit borrowing. I am forever amazed by the concept that something being “a good deal” is justification, in and of itself, to do it. Let’s buy a house; the house is overpriced, it’s in bad repair, the housing market is falling, and we can’t afford it, but the interest rate is low so let’s buy a house.

But his main point is government spending as it relates to health care costs and that we should spend money on programs that study how to reduce health care cost. An example is “effectiveness study” programs that examine how well various treatments work. We should, he says, not eliminate these programs, because we need to reduce the cost of health care and you can’t do that by deciding to “replace half a kidney” or such.

I have no argument about reducing health care costs, but I’m not sure that we need to spend a bunch of money reinventing the damned wheel.

We could, perhaps, ask France how they do it.

Every developed country in the world has a health care system that works at least as well as ours does, most of them work better, and some of them work quite a lot better. The most expensive of them spends less than half what ours does. We never, ever, look at them and say “How do they do it?”

Are they replacing half a kidney? Do they have death panels? I have no idea. What I do know, if statistics are to be believed, is that the people being treated by those health care systems live longer and have lower incidences of chronic malfunction than do the people in this country. We just look at those statistics and say that we don’t want to know how they do it because “We’re not like Europe.” Well, maybe we should be.

What Paul Krugman actually wants us to study is how to reduce our health care cost while still generating the $billions of profit which are generated by the various levels of industry within that system. That’s going to require one hell of a lot of study.

1 comment:

bruce said...

What I think he was saying was the cost of borrowing is relatively low, if we were going to do it. He suggests that spending now to avoid spending more later, which might include borrowing. Of course, spending more later might involve more borrowing, but that's a different issue.

His suggestions of finding out what works is not a bad one, but Jayhawk is correct, that would be a lot of study and a good majority of that might be pointless. We definately need to look at ways to curb cost growth, and we should include everything on the table. Efficiency, streamlining, collaboration, are all points to look at. Other countries models should be looked at - we don't have to use exactly what they do, but take what works and what is good. Take Mayo Clinic for example, it works. And no, we should not have to reinvent the wheel, but we need to start somewhere. And that probably does not include repealing the recent Healthe Care Act.

The Rubs (and anyone else) that start sneering and saying things like "..it planted the seeds from which the poisonous tree of death panels will grow.” ought to have a size 12 planted somewhere.

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