I’ve Decided Not to Follow the Healthcare Debate

I don’t have an opinion on healthcare. I’m not following the debate that’s currently dominating the headlines in America (and China, incidentally, where I am now). I’m clueless. People ask me what I think, and I tell them, “I know nothing.”

I’ve decided I’m just going to read it about once it’s resolved.

You can’t keep up with everything. Rather than lightly follow along and skim articles and pretend to be informed, I’m consciously opting out. I rarely do this when it comes to current affairs — I’m kind of a junkie — but I must say, this time around, it feels liberating.

Now, since I still read my favorite bloggers, I do catch whiffs about what’s going on. As the debate seems to spiral into the gutter — welcome to the “era of separate fact universes” — perhaps it’s time to consider whether politics is the the mind-killer after all…

7 comments on “I’ve Decided Not to Follow the Healthcare Debate
  • I hear you. There’re so many players (doctors, patients, hospitals, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, …) all with different incentives. It’s such a complex system it feels like I can’t even pretend to know the consequences of policy A or policy B.

  • I’m the same way. I’m usually closely following everything political, but health care frankly bores me, and I have no real opinion on it. Unfortunately many of the blogs I read follow it quite closely, and I just end up zoning out.

    I am, however, following the debate about the debate, such as the ridiculous town-hall protests and falsehoods about ‘death panels’. Scary and disheartening stuff. As a fellow who attended a town-hall event said: “I don’t think we need health care reform- I think we need education reform.”

  • Why do you think the healthcare debate is headlines in China? (It doesn’t directly affect them.) Is it scary, inspiring, fascinating? Are they interested in the process or the people?

    This blog is great. Thanks.

  • It’s complicated in China, too. The scale is just much larger here. MUCH,
    much, larger. Some hospitals have 50,000 outpatients a day. I don’t know the
    details of the proposals.

  • It is better to spend your time exercising and improving your health than focusing on the healcare at the national level.

  • I certainly empathize, but if you read just one article about the health-care debate, read this, “The Cost Conundrum” by an M.D., in the New Yorker.

    These excerpts will convey the gist of it:

    “Nearly thirty per cent of Medicare’s costs could be saved without negatively affecting health outcomes if spending in high- and medium-cost areas could be reduced to the level in low-cost areas,” Peter Orszag, the President’s budget director, has stated.

    She wasn’t the only person to mention Renaissance. It is the newest hospital in the area. It is physician-owned.

    And it has a reputation (which it disclaims) for aggressively recruiting high-volume physicians to become investors and send patients there.

    Physicians who do so receive not only their fee for whatever service they provide but also a percentage of the hospital’s profits from the tests, surgery, or other care patients are given. (In 2007, its profits totalled thirty-four million dollars.)

    Romero and others argued that this gives physicians an unholy temptation to overorder.

    He offered a different possible explanation: the culture of money.

    They had “entrepreneurial spirit,” he said. They were innovative and aggressive in finding ways to increase revenues from patient care.

    “It’s a machine, my friend,” one surgeon explained.

    He didn’t pay any of them, he said: “I mean, I gotta sleep at night.” And he emphasized that these were just a handful of doctors. But he had never been asked for a kickback before coming to McAllen.

    She described how, a decade or so ago, a few early agencies began rewarding doctors who ordered home visits with more than trinkets: they provided tickets to professional sporting events, jewelry, and other gifts. That set the tone.

    Doctors came to expect a share of the revenue stream.

    “Medicine has become a pig trough here,” he muttered.

    “We took a wrong turn when doctors stopped being doctors and became businessmen,” he said.

  • I apply similar logic to most all government-related current events. If you can compute a function’s derivative you’ve got better things to be doing than reading the news. Just ask your smartest friend who doesn’t agree with me on this who they’re voting for.

    (And yes, there will *always* be people who disagree with me. Some seem to have almost a religious reverence associated with reading the news and voting.)

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