POLICY: The New York Times cannot leave its pustilent sore alone!

This one is absolutely beyond belief. This time the dog is licking its sore raw and just cannot stop. Two boneheaded articles based on Cutler’s work have run in the NY Times in the last few weeks, and required such smacking down that Joe Paduda gave me the headline Matt 1, NY Times 0. Meanwhile the NY times got a boatload of letters criticizing the second of them.

But does that stop them? Oh, no. Today a libertarian blogger who’s a professor from George Mason University, which prior to today was best known for its basketball team’s Cinderalla NCAA run last year, gets given a full column in the nation’s paper of record in which he actually says that the “American health care system may be performing better than it seems” because our scientists win more Nobel Prizes than those foreigners do! And we have more innovation in developing new treatments here! And more so that because we’re spending more money on health compared to those evil European systems that restrain costs, this is, wait for it, “saving lives.” Yup, apparently while it might look sensible to make an effort to restrain health care costs:

In the short run, this would save money but in the longer run it would cost lives.

Oh, and we’re also doing more tests, procedures and visits with specialists because this is what people want!

If we count “giving people what they would want, if they knew it was there” as one measure of medical value, the American system looks better.

If wing nuts like this want to spout complete garbage on their loony-toons blog, well he has a first amendment right to do so. After all, other than 40 years of health technology assessment research on innapropriate use of medical technology, the Dartmouth/Wennberg school showing massive variation in care where more care leads to worse outcomes, and the IOM reports that show 100,000 annual deaths from medical errors largely from inappropriate overuse of technology, and 20,000 annual deaths directly from being uninsured, there’s almost no evidence he’s wrong!

But why the hell is the NY Times deciding that it must launch this last ditch defense of the American health care system? I think we should be told.

Otherwise they should give an entire week over to rational critics of the system, starting with Jack Wennberg.

UPDATE: The Michigan Independent thinks as I do, but is slightly calmer and performs the line by line rebuttal that I just couldn’t bear to do

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9 replies »

  1. The Nobel prizes, drug and device innovations and the like are indicative of sophisticated and advanced treatment capabilities. Thanks for the resources.

  2. Posted by: Barry Carol
    “assuming I had insurance or could otherwise afford care.”
    Ah yes, there’s the rub.

  3. CT. I’m not attacking him–he’s entitled to his opinions. I’m attacking the NY Times for giving an out of right field blogger a pulpit, following the two previous ridiculous articles on basically the same topic.
    There are VOLUMES of evidence, as I referenced suggesting that everything he said is bascially false or has no causal connection to the health care system, and yet the NY Times not less ran it anyway. This is Judith Miller-esqu in its relationship to reality.

  4. Kind’ve a vicious response. And while I guess you call them like you see them, attacking “wing nut” Dr. Cowen based on the reputation of his academic institution, especially with a none too shabby CV, looks both hateful and foolish.

  5. MG, didn’t you know that the number of Nobel prizes a country wins in medicine is a valid measure of health outcomes?

  6. The single most unimpressive thing about this column was that it did not include one valid comparison between the US health care system and other countries’ health care systems. At least throw some figures out there comparing patient satisfaction rates or the number of patents for medical innovations.

  7. I agree that there is plenty wrong with our healthcare system. The problems, however, relate mainly to costs, access (whether one has insurance or not) and the incentive structure for compensating doctors and other medical providers.
    If I were seriously ill and needed advanced treatment, however, I would prefer to be treated here vs Canada, UK, France, Germany et al. assuming I had insurance or could otherwise afford care. The Nobel prizes, drug and device innovations and the like are indicative of sophisticated and advanced treatment capabilities. Affordability, access, and cost-effectiveness are different matters entirely.

  8. Chill out. The point of todays article is simply to avoid “throwing out the baby with the bathwater” in a rush to emulate the health systems of other countries. I think he has a good point. Something surely deserving of more than a haughty scoff.