While running a number of errands this weekend, I was listening to this well-done history of the evolution of the U.S. healthcare system on This American Life on National Public Radio. And while I haven't heard all of it, what I did hear was excellent. The evolution of our current healthcare system is a mix of entrepreneurial insights and development of an institutional structure (the rules and organizations) that create a system that provides many players with incentives to shift costs or seek incremental innovation, while depriving other participants of some basic information to help in decision-making. There are even examples of placing incentives to choose more expensive treatments under the guise of "it's free - someone else is paying for it."
I strongly recommend the program. What it made clear for me is the problem inherent in continuing any system that deprives the primary producers (doctors) and consumers (patients) of fundamental information (costs) to help them make choices. While we all want the "best," sometimes the "best" isn't what is needed.
I look forward to other comments on the episode.
I just received my email notification of this week's EconTalk episode. It features a discussion of prices in the healthcare system between host, Russ Roberts of George Mason University, and frequent guest Mike Munger of Duke University. While I don't always agree with either of them, their sessions on EconTalk are
consistently among the best, in my opinion. Consequently, consider listening to this after you listen to the
show on This American Life. That's what I plan to do.
For those of you who tuned in earlier, my apologies. I gave a link to the wrong episode of This American Life. This is the episode I was referring to (although the other one is good, as well).