Physician Heal Thyself

April 14

The title of this post is a proverb from Luke, and like many other proverbs, is somewhat ambiguous in its meaning. Sounds pretty straightforward until you think about a similar proverb, ‘A lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client.’

In any case, I’ll take it to mean mostly what it purports to say. A number of people in the world of health care are complaining that the government release of data about how much Medicare pays to doctors, because they say the numbers can be misleading. Well that would make them just like all other numbers. I don’t see their point.

Yes, the numbers will create some confusion. That’s on one side of the leger. On the OTHER side of the leger is the immense amount of confusion they will begin to clear up. This debate is not taking place in a vacuum. It is not taking place in a system that is working well to deliver good health outcomes at prices comparable to what other similar countries pay. It is occurring in a system that is vastly overpriced and is forecast to bankrupt the nation. You know the never ending hair-tearing about federal deficits? That’s healthcare costs, pretty much entirely. Oh, that.

Yes that. You know the saying. You can’t fix what you can’t measure? And also too, you can’t measure without the numbers. I don’t want to pick on doctors, because I’ve been treated by some good ones (also a few not-so-good ones). But health care costs have been rising faster than inflation every year, and this kind of thing compounds, both figuratively and literally.

Doctors are busy people, and maybe they don’t have time to think about how healthcare works on a macro level. Okay, but the rest of us now have to. We are in need of some honest diagnostics here.

Tom Toles is the editorial cartoonist for The Post and writes the Tom Toles blog.
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Tom Toles · April 13