IB-2001-F (September 2001)
Author: Linda Gorman
Transcript of a speech delivered by Linda Gorman at Putting Patients First, a health care symposium held Aug. 29th, 2001 in Evergreen, Colorado and sponsored by the Rocky Mountain Center for Health Care Policy, an affiliate of the Independence Institute.
Im here to tell you, since were quoting P.J. ORourke right now, he said that Giving more money to government was like giving teenage boys whiskey and car keys. And even though you work as hard as you can to make government programs work, there are certain reasons why they will not work no matter how you work, so were going to get a little lesson this morning in public choice economics.
But to start with I can, yes, give an example at the end of this talk of a drug that has indisputably, or a class of drugs, saved money in hospitalization costs. There are studies out there that do it so if the person who had that question, we can help you.
One of the things I find as I go around and talk about health care in this state, is Im still talking to a lot of people who think that the socialized systems where the government controls health care are still the best. And they really, what they usually will do to me is quote to me or for me, or to argue with me, is quote statistics on things that I think are very bad measures of how health systems in developed countries perform. The classic statistics that are quoted to you are infant mortality, OK? Well, what people dont know is that definitions of live births vary over different countries and so the number of babies born alive depends on where you are. So infant mortality is going to depend on where you are. A one-pound premature baby in some countries in Europe is not considered alive, its not counted. So when somebody quotes you infant mortality to say that the U.S. health care system is bad, ask them if theyve done it by birth weight categories. Other things that are used, our life expectancy, U.S. health care system gets beaten up: Oh, life expectancy is way too short compared to other countries and look how much we spend.
Well, a more useful measure is probably the number of years of useful life, because life expectancy depends on how many risks people take and it can be changed by behavior. Extremely promiscuous people may catch diseases that shorten their lives, people who like to bungee jump may shorten their lives, and so forth, and depending on your culture, youre going to get life expectancy that may change having nothing whatsoever to do with the medical care system. The other things consumer surveys, well, everybody in Canada likes their health care system, I saw a survey that said that 89% of the people thought it was great. Well, at any one time, only about four percent of the people in any given developed country have been in the hospital or needed sophisticated care. So consumer surveys of that kind are worthless, because people dont know what theyre talking about.