Health Care Quote of the Day

Dick Posner

From Judge Richard Posner:

“The current concern about the health system, which generates plans such as the Edwards plan, may be misplaced. It is true that health costs are rising faster than the inflation rate. But rising costs, even of “essential” products and services, such as food, health care, and national defense, do not necessarily demonstrate the existence of a problem. Costs may be rising because quality is rising, which is true of health care (new and better therapies and diagnostic tools), or because demand is rising (and average cost is not flat or declining), which is also true; as people live longer, their demand for health care rises because more health care is required to keep people alive and healthy the older they are. In addition, much health care is in fact discretionary (cosmetic surgery is only one example; others are treatment for mild depression and other mild emotional or cognitive problems and treatments designed to enhance athletic ability), and demand for it can be expected to rise if quality rises relative to price.

“It is also true that Americans spend much more on health care on average than the people in other wealthy countries do, without greater longevity to show for these expenditures. But health care does much more than extend life; it alleviates pain, discomfort, disfigurement, limited mobility, visual and hearing impairments, and mental suffering, and it is not clear that foreign health systems, which also involve considerable costs in queuing, do these things as well. In addition, the better a nation’s health care is, the riskier the population’s life style is likely to be, because the cost of obesity and other risk factors for disease is less.”

The full text is here. When Tyler Cowen and Greg Mankiw wake up I expect they’ll link to this article too. In the hysteria of, “We deserve cheap good healthcare,” these points are forgotten. Of course there are issues with the current system. I listened Posner talk earlier this year. While he made very good points, he is a more compelling writer than speaker.

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