Monday, August 17, 2009

"Your Money Or Your Life"

The most notable item in the WSJ opinion pages today is an op-ed by Craig S. Carpel defending our high level of health care spending. Carpel argues that along with food, shelter and clothing, health care is a fundamental need and President Obama's determination to reduce spending on it is badly misplaced. It is far better to allocate resources towards medical innovation than the bloated government bureaucracy that Obama envisions.
An excerpt.

The U.S. health-care economy should be viewed not as a burden but as an engine of growth. Medical and orthopedic equipment exports increased by 65.1% from 2004 through 2008. Pharmaceutical exports were up 74.6%. The unprecedented advances expected to come out of American stem cell, nanotechnology and human genome research—which other countries' constricted health sectors cannot support—will send these already impressive figures skyward.
A study by Deloitte LLP has found that more than 400,000 non-U.S. residents obtained medical care in the U.S. in 2008, and it forecasts an annual increase of 3%. Some 3.5% of inpatient procedures at U.S. hospitals were performed on international patients, many of them escaping from Canada's supposedly superior health system.

"Inbound medical tourism," Deloitte stated, "is primarily driven by the search for high-quality care without extensive waiting periods. Foreign patients are willing to pay more for care within the United States if these two factors play a large role." The deficiencies of the foreign health-care systems the Obama administration wishes to emulate can be counted on to generate ever-increasing revenues for U.S. providers and employment for Americans.
In a 2007 study, Stanford University economists Robert E. Hall (who will take office next year as president of the American Economic Association) and Charles I. Jones reported that modeling they've conducted has found that mid-21st century U.S. health-care expenditures would optimally amount to 30% of GDP or more. They wrote:
"We examine the allocation of resources that maximizes social welfare in our model. We abstract from the complicated institutions that shape spending in the United States and ask a more basic question: from a social welfare standpoint, how much should the nation spend on health care, and what is the time path of optimal health spending? . . .
"Viewed from every angle, our results support the proposition that both historical and future increases in the health spending share are desirable. . . . [W]e believe it likely that maximizing social welfare in the United States will require the development of institutions that are consistent with spending 30 percent or more of GDP on health by the middle of the century."
The administration's health-care plan is biased toward bean-counting rather than designed to maximize American physical and mental well-being. We need to ask ourselves whether there is truly anything more valuable to us than our loved ones and our own health and longevity.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Spare The Plug

A favorite argument that would be reformers use to disparage the U.S. health care system is the less than stellar life expectancy of Americans. Mark Steyn takes aim at this fallacious indicator on NRO. He also warns of the disposability of the elderly if Obamacare passes.

...there (Obama) was reassuring the crowd that provision for mandatory “end-of-life counseling” has “gotten spun into this idea of ‘death panels.’ I am not in favor of that.” Well, that’s good to know. So good that a grateful audience applauded the president’s pledge not to kill them. He has no plans, as he put it, to “pull the plug on Grandma.”
The problem with government health systems is not that they pull the plug on Grandma. It’s that Grandma has a hell of a time getting plugged in in the first place. The only way to “control costs” is to restrict access to treatment, and the easiest people to deny treatment to are the oldsters. Don’t worry, it’s all very scientific. In Britain, they use a “Quality-Adjusted Life Year” formula to decide that you don’t really need that new knee because you’re gonna die in a year or two, maybe a decade-and-a-half tops. So it’s in the national interest for you to go around hobbling in pain rather than divert “finite resources” away from productive members of society to a useless old geezer like you. And you’d be surprised how quickly geezerdom kicks in: A couple of years back, some Quebec facilities were attributing death from hospital-contracted infection of anyone over 55 to “old age.”

Friday, August 14, 2009

Do You Want A Decent Health Care Plan With That Arugula?

The WSJ continues to expose the myriad shortcomings of the health care plan making its way through Congress as well as providing a forum for discussion of much more sensible alternatives.
On Monday (8/10), Dorothy Rabinowitz showcased President Obama's close-minded radicalism regarding health care reform and, more importantly, his cluelessness about the character of the American people.

On Tuesday (8/11), John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, picked apart the Democrats' disatrous health care plan and explained a far superior alternative, one that's been successfully implemented for the employees of his company.

Finally, today, John H. Cochrane proposes free market solutions to the problem of covering patients with pre-existing conditions.