How American Medicine Is Destroying Itself. | The New Republic

May 31, 2011

We now view all diseases as things to be conquered. Underlying these changes have been several assumptions: that medical advances are essentially unlimited; that none of the major lethal diseases is in theory incurable; and that progress is economically affordable if well managed.

But what if all this turns out not to be true?

More at How American Medicine Is Destroying Itself. | The New Republic.

Obamacare: No Friends in Free-Market, Single-Payer Camps | Miller-McCune

May 31, 2011

It’s the president of the free-market-minded Galen Institute versus a pediatrician/activist for a single-payer system in spirited debate on improving American health care.

More at Obamacare: No Friends in Free-Market, Single-Payer Camps | Miller-McCune.

Childhood Health and Differences in Late-Life Health Outcomes Between England and the United States

May 31, 2011

James Banks, Zoe Oldfield, James P. Smith. Childhood Health and Differences in Late-Life Health Outcomes Between England and the United States. NBER Working Paper No. 17096, Issued in May 2011

In this paper we examine the link between retrospectively reported measures of childhood health and the prevalence of various major and minor diseases at older ages. Our analysis is based on comparable retrospective questionnaires placed in the Health and Retirement Study and the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing – nationally representative surveys of the age 50 plus population in America and England respectively. We show that the origins of poorer adult health among older Americans compared to the English trace right back into the childhood years – the American middle and old-age population report higher rates of specific childhood health conditions than their English counterparts. The transmission into poor health in mid life and older ages of these higher rates of childhood illnesses also appears to be higher in America compared to England. Both factors contribute to higher rates of adult illness in the United States compared to England although even in combination they do not explain the full extent of the country difference in late-life health outcomes.

More at Childhood Health and Differences in Late-Life Health Outcomes Between England and the United States.

Life and Growth

May 31, 2011

Charles I. Jones. Life and Growth. NBER Working Paper No. 17094, Issued in May 2011

Some technologies save lives — new vaccines, new surgical techniques, safer highways. Others threaten lives — pollution, nuclear accidents, global warming, the rapid global transmission of disease, and bioengineered viruses. How is growth theory altered when technologies involve life and death instead of just higher consumption? This paper shows that taking life into account has first-order consequences. Under standard preferences, the value of life may rise faster than consumption, leading society to value safety over consumption growth. As a result, the optimal rate of consumption growth may be substantially lower than what is feasible, in some cases falling all the way to zero.

More at Life and Growth.

The Economics of Risky Health Behaviors

May 31, 2011

John Cawley, Christopher Ruhm. The Economics of Risky Health Behaviors. NBER Working Paper No. 17081, Issued in May 2011

Risky health behaviors such as smoking, drinking alcohol, drug use, unprotected sex, and poor diets and sedentary lifestyles (leading to obesity) are a major source of preventable deaths. This chapter overviews the theoretical frameworks for, and empirical evidence on, the economics of risky health behaviors. It describes traditional economic approaches emphasizing utility maximization that, under certain assumptions, result in Pareto-optimal outcomes and a limited role for policy interventions. It also details nontraditional models (e.g. involving hyperbolic time discounting or bounded rationality) that even without market imperfections can result in suboptimal outcomes for which government intervention has greater potential to increase social welfare. The chapter summarizes the literature on the consequences of risky health behaviors for economic outcomes such as medical care costs, educational attainment, employment, wages, and crime. It also reviews the research on policies and strategies with the potential to modify risky health behaviors, such as taxes or subsidies, cash incentives, restrictions on purchase and use, providing information and restricting advertising. The chapter concludes with suggestions for future research.

More at The Economics of Risky Health Behaviors.

Health care law puts seniors at risk – The Boston Globe

May 31, 2011

According to an American Medical Association survey of 9,000 doctors nationwide, current reimbursement rates have already led 17 percent of all doctors, including 31 percent of primary care physicians, to restrict the number of Medicare patients in their practices. IPAB will only make this serious problem worse.

Something similar will happen with prescription drug coverage. IPAB is empowered to cut reimbursement rates to providers under Medicare Part D. If and when it does, providers will likely respond with more restrictive drug formularies, ceasing their coverage for more expensive medicines. Seniors will lose access to life-saving treatment options.

More at Health care law puts seniors at risk – The Boston Globe.

Emergency Care, But Not At A Hospital – Kaiser Health News

May 31, 2011

Emergency departments are struggling to keep up with demand, serving a growing number of people at the same time that their numbers are shrinking. One increasingly popular option to improve access to services is the freestanding emergency department, a facility that, as its name suggests, isn’t physically located with a hospital.

More at Emergency Care, But Not At A Hospital – Kaiser Health News.