I’m usually loathe to rip into a top-notch economist like Brad DeLong, especially when he titles his post “An Unrealistic, Impracticle, Utopian Plan for Dealing with the Health Care Opportunity.” But several things bothered me about that post.
What I’ve never understood about the entire healthcare debate is the need to invent completely new plans. My take on this is ultimately pragmatic: find a system that provides universal coverage and good healthcare and institute it. Much of Europe–including the dreaded French–have very good healthcare. Translate the damn documentation, slap a big ol’ U.S. of A. flag on it, and you have some healthcare*. If other countries can do that, it’s not impossible, or even impractical.
Then DeLong, realizing that his program won’t be passed, veers in the other direction by supporting the Democratic candidates’ programs because they would be better than what currently exists (which is probably correct). But, at this stage, I still don’t understand why Democratic candidates feel the need to develop complex plans (any plan would be complex) that wouldn’t be as good as some of the EU plans. There’s no international copyright on government programs, and if you’re going to go through all of the legislative trouble anyway, why not use a better plan?
Finally, in the more immediate future (not the one where we all have cloned organs waiting for us), if you want to make a tremendous impact on morbidity, mortality, and economic burden, lower the two million hospital-acquired infections that occur annually in the U.S. Some preliminary data from a colleague suggests that hospital-acquired infections–just what you catch in the hospital–runs to roughly $60 billion annually. And that’s probably a low-ball figure. Need I mention the 90,000 who die annually from these infections? Before we get all het up about novel medical technology, let’s try practicing good nineteenth century medicine.
There endeth the rant.