Arnold Kling  

Do We Spend Too Little on Health Care?

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From an article in The New York Times.


In 1950, the country spent less than $100 a year — or $500 in today’s dollars — on the average person’s medical care, compared with almost $6,000 now, notes David M. Cutler...

Yet we often imagine that the costs and benefits are unrelated, that we can somehow have 2006 health care at 1950 (or even 1999) prices.


In Crisis of Abundance, I point out that we could easily afford the health care of 1975, which was not such bad health care. Harvard economist David Cutler thinks that the higher-cost medical care of today is worth it. I agree that some of today's medical care is worth the cost. However, I think that our impulse to over-collectivize health care spending leads to a mis-allocation of resources.


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COMMENTS (3 to date)
Daniel writes:

What we spend per person is such a vague figure. The crazy out of control costs of health care are related to a small group of patients. I AM a doctor and I just got down from upstairs taking care of a woman who has been here for 2 months. She's over sixty, over 350 pounds, and has had a massive stroke on top of a myriad of other problems. She's consuming well over $6000 worth of resources per day, not to mention a few days where she had procedures done and other things. I had them run the numbers on her and she's at well over $500k already...with no end in sight. The best part is...all she did before coming in was lay in bed all day. And should she ever make it out of here, anyone seeing her today will agree that she will never regain any semblance of her previous (ridiculously low) level of function.
It makes me sick every time I have to see her. (And yes, I do feel sorry for the sad state that she is in and all that she has been through, it's quite tragic...but that doesn't change her prognosis.)

Margie writes:

Are you suggesting that non-productive citizens should be ignored and allowed to die? That we should decide this by their value to society? On what should we base this value, dollars and cents?Hard, common sense would dictate just that. But we are far more morally evolved than that. I hope.The wealthiest nation in the world can and will find a practical way to preserve the lives of its non-productive, undeserving citizens, somehow, because we just could not live with ourselves, otherwise.

Eric Brailsford-Cato writes:

"I had them run the numbers on her and she's at well over $500k already...with no end in sight"

> Do you not think a human life is worth 500,000 dollars. Would you not pay 500,000 dollars to keep a love one alive? Just becuase a person is older or overweight doesn't mean they don't have family memebers out there that would miss and love them.

> I think that health care is under funded. I think that we should spend less time and money on frivolous things like the war in iraq, and focus more on the people in our nation. ie. welfare and health care. focus on taking care of the people of this nation and a little less focus on killing others....

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