Our Health Care System Needs Immediate Reform – The View from the Inside

September 9, 2009

This is the second of three posts on health care reform in the United States. The first post was about which type of experts to trust. The third post will be published on the so-called “public option” after the author has had a chance to review the legislation.

Tonight, Wednesday, September 9, 2009, President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress to argue for health care reform. But you might not realize why health care reform is so desperately needed in the United States, since your only experience of health care in the US might have been good visits with an excellent physician. The need for health care system reform isn’t about the quality of our doctors and other health care providers: for the most part, they’re highly qualified and good at their jobs. Instead, there are three basic symptoms of ill health in our health care system, and I will investigate the causes of those symptoms in this essay, partly from the view of an insider who worked in health care for six years, partly from the view of someone especially knowledgeable about the health care system from careful study. I argue that because the health of this system has been bad for so long, we must take action as soon as we can to reform it.

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Health Care Reform: Doctors Can’t Be Expert Witnesses

September 8, 2009

This is part one of a three part series on health care reform in the United States. The second part is a primer on how the health care system works and why it’s broken; the third will be about why I think we need a public option as part of any health care reform package. The third part will be published after I’ve had a chance to review legislation relevant to the speech and some of the broader reform efforts.

With President Obama addressing a joint session of Congress this Wednesday, September 9th, 2009, on the subject, health care reform is again a focus of national attention. We’re being asked again to evaluate the president’s claims on the subject in light of the testimony of a great many expert witnesses. Since health care reform became a subject of serious discussion in the 2008 election cycle, we’ve had the occasional opinion from some doctor, for instance, on what he or she thinks should be the way we do health care in the future. Even the American Medical Association, allegedly the body the represents all the doctors in the United States, has made its opinion known on the matter, supporting reform but not a public option. But I don’t think we should treat doctors as our expert witnesses on the subject of large-scale institutional reform in the health care system. Instead, economists are the most suitable expert witnesses when it comes to the health of our health care system and the institutional reform that we should be implementing. After the jump, I’ll try to explain why I think economists* are suitable and medical doctors are not suitable as our experts on the subject of health care reform.

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The coming revolution over anti-aging research

December 14, 2008

On Bloggingheads’ Science Saturday, Methuselah Foundation chairman Aubrey de Gray argues that eternal life is within reach and attacks those who think it’d be a bad idea.

But here’s something he and interviewer Eliezer Yudkowsky don’t address: on the day eternal life becomes available, it might be a bad idea for everybody over a certain age. Those people would be locked into life at their current age indefinitely, while the rest of the world — their future friends, enemies, bosses and lovers — would become an ever-swelling group of 24-year-olds.

How would society react to this approaching possibility?

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Untimely Ripped

July 3, 2008

If you’ve had a child in the last ten years or so – or rather, if you’ve seriously contemplated having a child for more than about fifteen minutes of your life – there’s one fact you’ve probably heard: Caesarean rates in the first world, especially in the US, are too high. Every few months brings along another article like this one, deploring the Caesarean rate and explaining (1) why it’s so high and (2) what doctors and patients should be doing to solve it, and aren’t. In many circles, unmedicated natural childbirth is held to be the best possible birthing experience — “our birthright” according to one midwife — and women who end up having a Caesarean for causes which aren’t immediately and obviously life-threatening for the baby (for instance, prolapsed cord) quite often feel that they’ve somehow been denied a good birth, or that they have let themselves or the baby down. On Plans, we were discussing how “birth is not a competition”, but human nature is such that some people will inevitably regard it as one; to have had an unmedicated birth somehow gives you a head start in the Good Parenting Stakes, and to have had a Caesarean shows lamentable weakness.

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Who’s the Bigger Liar?

August 19, 2007

The New York Times reported last week on the impossible discrepancy between the reported numbers of sexual partners by men and women. The short of it is men report up to twice as many partners as women, a finding that is logically unsupportable. (That is to say, whom else could they possibly be sleeping with?)

They cite a number of possible theories for the difference, noting that this obvious lie has largely been ignored by researchers and their analysis. So the question remains then, who’s the bigger liar: men or women? Further, I wonder how this plays out for non-heterosexuals of both genders — do they find the same over-/underreporting here as well?  Any burgeoning sex researchers among our readers who might shed light on the issue?

Green Tea Allergy?

June 20, 2007

I heard something the other day that I’d never heard before. We were talking about the purported benefits of jasmine tea, and green tea in general, at work the other day, and one of my coworkers said that she can’t drink green tea, because she has a horrible reaction to it. She said it made her jittery, anxious, and have big mood swings all day. After her first experience drinking green tea, she had no inclination to do so again. But with all the news about the health benefits of green tea, she tried something with green tea extract in it. Same reaction. No more green tea for her. She said she also had a friend that this might have happened to as well.

Now, I know, the plural of anecdote is not data. And I certainly drink a lot of green tea, as do many of the people I know, with no ill effects. But I was curious to see if this was an acknowledged phenomenon, given how widespread green tea and its extracts are becoming. I’m sure people can develop a food allergy to pretty much anything, but usually it’s to a certain thing in the food, and what would it be in green tea? Is it in other stuff, too?

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