Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Health Care

A thought in light of the last post:

I strongly suspect that our national health would be better on average if, rather than subsidizing prescription drugs, the federal government actually banned or restricted many prescription drugs -- NOT all, to be sure -- and plowed those billions of dollars into subsidizing the production and purchase of vegetables and fruits instead.

Not that this would be the ideal policy solution starting from scratch, of course. But it might be far better than what we have now, where the government first effectively subsidizes foods that cause obesity and inflammation-related diseases, and then helps older people buy cholesterol and heart treatments that don't work.


Blogger Michael Simpson said...

That would only be true if people actually then went out and ate lots of vegetables in particular. The truth is that most people would rather have some fried chicken fingers than black-eyed peas, pretty much regardless of the price, don't you think?

6:52 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

Well, at the margin, some people would increase their vegetable consumption if the price went down. So what I'm saying is that that increase in consumption would probably be better for Americans' health overall than the subsidization of drugs many of which don't work or are positively harmful.

Now that's obviously just a guess on my part. Still, I think our discussion of health care in this country needs to get beyond the simplistic view that everything would be better if only more people were given more health care. For some types of health care that would be true; but for other types of health care, it would be a waste of money and some people would be positively harmed.

9:25 AM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

From BlackAdder:

U.S. sugar prices are several times the world price for sugar, and the same is true for other subsidized foods. So whatever we might think about government support for the U.S. producers of foods that "cause" obesity, it clearly hasn't made those products cheaper, and thus blame for obesity can't be laid at their feet. It's more likely that a free market in sugar would lead to more obesity (though I wouldn't expect the anti-globalization folks to start chanting "free trade = obesity" any time soon).

Response from Stuart: I was thinking more of government subsidies for corn and wheat production.

3:21 PM  
Blogger Stuart Buck said...

From Blackadder: I don't know about wheat, but I'm pretty sure that corn prices are a lot higher than they otherwise would be because of the governments subsidies regarding corn ethanol.

From Stuart: So on the one hand, subsidies for ethanol artificially increase demand for corn and drive the price up. But at the same time, subsidies for corn production make it cheaper for food manufacturers to put high-fructose corn syrup in everything. I wonder if there's any way to tell what the overall effect is.

10:06 AM  
Blogger Dr. B G said...

I've read Overtreated too and I think that it was one of the best researched commentary on current healthcare at this time. Thanks for highlighting it! You should check out 'The Secret History of the War on Cancer by D. Davis.

Your 'series' Overuse of Medicine, HC and Useless HC (and just LOVED 'starve a fever') are SPECTACULAR!! Totally agree w/all your interesting viewpoints.

So when will the 'Buck' stop?

It does help healthcare now that wheat costs 3x more and corn as well...!! Hippocrates once said 'let food be thy medicine...' Perhaps it will at some point get back to the basic good ol' nutrition, and less (useless) medications. Less (useless) surgeries. Less (useless) mortality/morbidity, etc.

Thank you for your posts!

12:50 AM  

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