Monday, August 6, 2012

When is a conclusion credible: health care edition

I think that critical thinking skills are needed when discussing health outcomes now more than ever.  Consider this prelude to reporting study results by Matt Yglesias:

Conservatives don't like Medicaid because they believe programs that tax the rich to transfer resources to the poor are bad for long-term economic growth and violate principles of cosmic justice. But since nobody likes to admit to the existence of a tradeoff, conservatives have lately taken to mounting the bizarre argument that giving health care to low-income poor people doesn't improve health outcomes.
 Now, let us consider just what this would likely imply.  If Medicaid, a conservative, inexpensive, and rationed health care system cannot improve outcomes what help is there for any possible level of health care?  After all, this care is focused on the sickest possible patients who have the fewest resources to handle a medical condition on their own.

So one would actually begin to wonder if any health care at all is effective at all.

Now it turns out that more careful studies are showing that Medicaid is a pretty cost effective way of saving lives.  But, if we believed the original (flawed) studies, wouldn't the really exciting take home point be that modern medicine is ineffective at saving lives?  That is a hige area of GDP that we could simply stop and re-allocate to more productive activities.

It really was an odd argument, all around. 

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