The Costs of Health Care

Can't have a day without any health care blogging.  Kevin Drum nicely summarizes this report on health care costs in America:

 Bob Somerby wants to know why the media isn't a wee bit more interested in why the United States pays far more per person for medical care than other rich countries.  Here's the rough answer:

  • We pay our doctors about 50% more than most comparable countries.
  • We pay more than twice as much for prescription drugs, despite the fact that we use less of them than most other countries.
  • Administration costs are about 7x what most countries pay.
  • We perform about 50% more diagnostic procedures than other countries and we pay as much as 5x more per procedure.

This analysis full of awesome charts is so cool, but probably for true wonks only.  Of course, the problem is that all these people making excess money like it that way, as Drum summarizes:

Underlying all this is the largely private, profit-driven nature of
American medicine, but regardless of how you feel about that, the main
lesson here is how hard it would be to seriously bring these costs
down.  We can jabber all we want about incentives and greed and
systemic waste, but the bottom line is that if we want to do anything
more than nip around the edges, we'd have to pay doctors and nurses
less, pay pharmaceutical companies less, pay insurance companies less
(or get rid of them entirely), pay hospitals less, and pay device
makers less.  That's a lot of very rich and powerful interests who will fight to the death to prevent any serious cost cutting, and
it's why Obama and the Democrats in Congress have largely chosen to buy
them off instead.

This is why we are having important improvements, but not all that much genuine reform.  With real reform a lot more entrenched interests are going to feel pain, and you cannot get that without true bipartisanship, which the Republicans clearly have absolutely no interest in these days.

The cult of Scalia’s intelligence

For some inexplicable reason, we're always hearing how damn smart Antonin Scalia is, even from liberals.  I honestly just don't get it.  I've read some Supreme Court decisions and oral argument transcripts in my day, and I'm just not seeing it.  Kevin Drum today:

From Antonin Scalia, explaining why a cross at Mojave National Preserve isn't really a specifically Christian symbol:

The cross is the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead.

But it's not up to me, and once these cases go to court they don't
deserve this kind of sophistry.  As Jonathan Kulick asks, "Does Justice
Scalia actually not understand that the cross is, in the United States,
the most common symbol of the resting place of the dead because most of those dead were Christians?"  Apparently not.

 For more, do read Jonathan Kulick's takedown of Scalia on the matter. 

What’s your ASQ?

I was recently having a rather heated discussion on the nature of autism with a friend as we debated the merits of the Autism Spectrum Quotient (good summary here).  I posted the link to take the test on my facebook page and had quite the interesting debate on it, so I thought I'd post it here, too.  (For the record, I scored a very non-Autistic 13, assuming I buy the validity of the test).  I think if you score fairly high on this test, you are likely to have High-Functioning Autism or Aspergers, but there's too many questions that are simply an indication of introversion.  And a few that are just dumb, i.e., I've got plenty good social communication skills and I'm an extrovert, but I still prefer museums to the theater.  Anyway, have at it and feel free to let me know what you think about the approach.  


Vote for me, my opponent is a fatty

That seems to be the fairly obvious subtext in Jon Corzine's campaign for reelection as NJ governor, as the Times details in a story today:

It is about as subtle as a playground taunt: a television ad for Gov. Jon S. Corzine shows his challenger, Christopher J. Christie,
stepping out of an S.U.V. in extreme slow motion, his extra girth
moving, just as slowly, in several different directions at once.

In case viewers missed the point, a narrator snidely intones that
Mr. Christie “threw his weight around” to avoid getting traffic tickets.

the ugly New Jersey contest for governor, Mr. Corzine and Mr. Christie
have traded all sorts of shots, over mothers and mammograms, loans and
lying. But now, Mr. Corzine’s campaign is calling attention to his
rival’s corpulence in increasingly overt ways.

I haven't been following this race too closely, but this certainly did catch my eye. 

I haven't been following this race too closely, but this certainly grabbed my attention.  Seems like it might actually be a reasonably effective strategy, given our huge bias against overweight people.  Personally, I don't really care about that, but I've pretty much thought Christie was an idiot since he was exposed as one in this terrific This American Life episode (about his time as a federal prosecutor in NJ).  And by the way, if you are a regular reader and you still aren't listening to This American Life– why?

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