Since Ann Romney has shown to be worth her weight in gold to her husband’s campaign, maybe she would be willing to take on a new topic. (She could do everything from North Korea to school choice, as far as I’m concerned.) The Wall Street Journal editorial board tells us:
A persistent health-care myth is that the U.S. system is uniquely wasteful versus the European countries that spend far less per patient as a result of tight government control. Only the establishment experts who spread this myth will be surprised, but new research shows American patients are often getting more value — better outcomes and longer lives — in return for those extra dollars . . . .
Tomas Philipson of the University of Chicago and colleagues compare U.S. oncology spending over the period from 1983 to 1999 (the last year for which data are available) with that in 10 European Union countries. Costs were lower overall overseas and grew by 16%, while they grew by 49% in the U.S. Yet U.S. cancer mortality rates are lower, despite higher cancer rates, and “We found that the value of survival gains greatly outweighed the costs, which suggests that the costs of cancer care were indeed ‘worth it,’” Mr. Philipson et al. write.
It is worthwhile to focus on such data so as to push back against the pro-rationing crowd. Yes, we want to begin slowing the rate of increase in health-care costs, but we shouldn’t be signing up for a meat ax approach that indiscriminately slashes health care and has a bias against experimental or unusual treatment plans that could provide breakthroughs (embodied by bureaucracies like the Independent Payment Advisory Board).
The Journal editors don’t say whether private or public spending has proven the most cost effective. But the public dollars spent on medical research are tiny compared with entitlement programs. Provided it is cost beneficial and cannot be duplicated in the private sector, it’s worth keeping up that discretionary spending. (The left’s insistence on spending with abandon on entitlement programs winds up pushing spending cuts in the direction of discretionary spending, which in fact may be useful.)
The Journal editors’ conclusion seems sound:
The U.S. system is relatively more expensive because diagnosis and treatment are much more intensive, and doctors tend to leverage the latest therapies and drugs against one of the world’s leading killers. While U.S. health care could obviously be far more efficient, most of its dysfunctions are the result of government’s perverse incentives.
The sophisticates who pine for the allegedly more enlightened forms of European rationing and price controls — for more perverse incentives — would do well to peruse the Health Affairs symposium. Mr. Philipson’s paper suggests those are good ways to stop anticancer progress in its tracks, or reverse it altogether.
Now that’s a message which will have resonance with voters. And who better than Ann Romney to carry the banner against the imposition of 15 unelected bureaucrats (not even necessarily medically trained) to hack away at medical costs, without nuance or regard for technological innovation and breakthroughs in treatment? If there is anything left of Obamacare after the Supreme Court gets through, the president and Congress needs to relook at the entire Independent Payment Advisory Board scheme, which, if devised by Republicans, would be portrayed as dangerous and misguided (which it is).