Dispatches from the Field, 2/25/08

26 02 2008

For better or worse, these are the kinds of hard discussions we have to have as we look at our options for the ailing healthcare system:

Prevention is Good Medicine, but it’s Not a Fiscal Panacea
Prevention saves lives; it is the right thing to do. But prevention does not save money

http://blogs.usatoday.com/oped/2008/02/prevention-is-g.html

One of my favorite economists is Dean Baker. His “Beat the Press” Column tackles the ignorance and hidden agendas in economics. As you can imagine, there’s a lot of material when the issue is the economics of healthcare!

When it Comes to Health Care the NYT Is Protectionist

Just yesterday the NYT editorial board was complaining about the threat of protectionism in discussing Senator Obama and Clinton’s trade policies. Today, the editorial board discusses Medicare’s financial problems and never once mentions the extent to which this is caused by protectionism.

The basic point is very simple. Every other wealthy country provides high quality health care at a far lower price than in the United States. If we want to lower cost then an obvious way would be to try to take advantage of these lower cost systems. It is easy to develop mechanisms that would allow for Medicare beneficiaries to take advantage of lower cost systems.

The argument for the gains from trade in medical services is exactly the same as the argument for gains from trade in cars and clothes (we can even use the same graph, we just have to relabel the axis), except the benefits are likely to be much larger in the case of medical care. It is inconsistent for the NYT to be so committed to eliminating trade barriers in manufactured goods but willing to tolerate much costly barriers to trade in medical services.

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/beat_the_press_archive?month=02&year=2008&base_name=when_it_comes_to_health_care_t

In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that I am working on the Austin health insurance program mentioned in this article.

Texas Urban Areas Work to Bring Three-Share Programs to the Working Uninsured

HealthLeaders-InterStudy, a leading provider of managed care market intelligence, reports that five Texas urban areas — Austin, Dallas, El Paso, Galveston and Houston — have made various levels of progress toward forming health benefit pools
authorized last year by the Texas legislature. According to the latest Texas Health Plan Analysis, these three-share health benefits programs are designed to provide coverage access to small businesses who feel they have been priced out of the healthcare market.

http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/02-26-2008/0004762435&EDATE=

This is shaping up to be a disappointment. The new office created by the FDA “will not get the ultimate power to sign off on label changes or recommendations to remove a drug from the market.”

FDA Unveils Plan to Boost Oversight of Drugs Once They Are on Market

The Food and Drug Administration unveiled a new effort to bolster its oversight of drugs after they’re on the market, in the agency’s latest response to years of criticism about its handling of medication safety issues.

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB120405750657094407.html?mod=wsjagent

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