Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Hello, would you like some healthcare? I have newfound healthcare claimant*

Healthcare reform is a big deal in America. It was more prominent in the Democratic primaries than it seems to be now, but everybody agrees; something must be done.

Most people also agree what what counts as good; more, high quality healthcare. High quality here is a little ambiguous but I take it to mean something like, "rich people have good healthcare so lets give that to everyone." I even listened to Obama and Clinton talk about it, for a little while anyway.

The problem with healthcare is that we consume far too much of it. It's too expensive rather than people not getting enough of it. I've already blogged about my newfound healthcare scepticism. Health outcomes correlate with just about everything under the sun, everything but healthcare that is. Doctors from top medical schools don't produce healthier patients.

Don't be fooled by how few links I'm including here, there's plenty to keep you busy.

This is exactly the kind of thing that the tag line to my blog (which I now realise should be attributed, I'll get right on that) refers to. When these claims are advanced, either by me or by someone online, people usually just laugh it off, often mocking the claims/claimer.

A common response is to point out all the ways in which modern medicine is obviously a net benefit (polio has been eradicated, TB is curable etc etc), as though this is being denied. This should actually make the claims more shocking, not obviously false; if you take the stuff that works out of the whole medical package, medicine makes us less healthy.

When I think of how many talented, dedicated and good people spend such enormous amounts of time, effort and money becoming doctors and that on net they don't make people healthier I get pretty emotional. The real tragedy is that different institutional structures could be in place that would almost certainly make medicine better, but these are overlooked or actively resisted. When I read about doctors refusing to wash their hands or use separate beepers for heart attacks (see Supercrunchers and this podcast) I start to look like a character in a Stanley Kubrick movie just before a killing spree.

My point in writing this post is not that I think all studies showing these results are perfect in every way, I just don't understand why people don't care more. Robin Hanson focuses on the effects of marginal healthcare rather than healthcare in general. Whatever. Reflexive dismissal of the studies earns a very severe frowny face from me >:(

Added: I changed something. Nothing substantive.

*In case you were wondering, blogger's spellchecker spat 'healthcare' and 'newfound' back at me and this was how I tested them in Word.

1 comment:

Stacy said...

Wow, now that's a scary look. Is that how I look when people inform me that rugby and American football are in fact "different sports"?

Healthcare in America is such a pleasant topic. Everyone wants expensive unnecessary checkups and procedures but no one wants to pay for them. So the government should pay for them!! Wait...where do they get their money again? Oh yah, taxes...All this aside, the point is that what we have is a generation of hypocondriacs arising out of the present comfort of Western society. What's that? I have the sniffles? That shouldn't happen to me! I'm an American! A headache? Must be a tumor! The reality is that most of the times that we go to the doctor we could easily have avoided doing so without having to have a limb chopped off as a result. I have encountered more useless doctors in my day than useful ones. But, that's partly my own fault...I shouldn't have been at the docotor in the first place because there was either nothing wrong with me or my flu had to run its course.

One more thing, if Americans really are so obsessed with staying healthy, why are we sooooo obese? And should those of us who take care of ourselves really have to take on the burden of those who refuse to? Shouldn't they have to pay the consequences just like an alcoholic or addict should? Is that mean? And why am I writing on your blog? I have to study!!!