Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

You get what you pay for?

Our friends Alan Sager and Deborah Socolar are out with yet another killer study. This time they find that the People's Republic of Massachusetts has the highest health care costs in the world. The full report will be available tomorrow or Monday at the Boston University Health Reform Program, and once I've had a chance to read it I will probably have more to say. Meanwhile, you can read about it in this story by Christopher Rowland in the Boston Globule.

Alas, the reason we spend the most is not because we're commies, it's because we aren't. The undisciplined melee of public and private insurance, teaching hospitals, for-profit hospitals, community hospitals, health plans, health centers, physician practices and general what-not sucks up money like a school of humpback whales in a krill field. But are we happy and healthy whales, or are we getting indigestion? (Yeah, sorry, that's kind of an esoteric simile, much too forced.) Some guy named Cutler who calls himself an economist says, according to Rowland, "'Really what's happening is we're buying more stuff, and on average that stuff is good for our health.' Problems associated with the cost of healthcare 'are more than offset by the benefits of living longer, healthier lives.'"

Ahh, no. Here in the PRM we do have somewhat better health status than most of the U.S., but that is entirely explainable by our comparative affluence and high levels of education. All of the comparably affluent countries spend less than half what we do on health care, and their people live longer, and are healthier, than we Massachusettsians. Come to think of it, that's even true of some less affluent countries. And people in many states where they spend less on health care are just as healthy as we are in Mass. So take that, Hahvahd economist.

Again, I'll have more to say once I've had a chance to read the report.

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